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Airport Worker Who Crashed Stolen Plane Asked, ‘Can This Thing Do a Back Flip?’

Via YouTube video taken by a resident near the accident scene.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

FBI agents have recovered the flight data recorder from a plane that was stolen and crashed by a 29-year-old airport worker whose only training appears to be video games.

Authorities are trying to determine whether the crash in which Richard Russell died was deliberate or accidental.

The rogue Horizon aircraft took off Friday evening after Russell stole the twin-engine turboprop from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and flew it in circles above the Pugent Sound in Washington before crashing in a wooded area near the island.

CNBC reports that it’s unclear whether Russell had any formal training, but Horizon Air CEO Gary Beck said he did not appear to have a pilot’s license. 

A worker on the grounds crew told air traffic control that Russell played video games.

“There were some maneuvers that were done that were incredible maneuvers,” Alaska Air CEO Brad Tilden said. “I don’t know how he achieved the experience that he did.”

Beck emphasized that “commercial aircraft are complex machines” that are not easy to fly.

“I wasn’t really planning on landing it,” Russell told air traffic controllers and a pilot, according to a recording of the incident.

 “I’ve played video games before and I know what I’m doing a little bit,” adding he knew how to “put landing gear down.”

Russell appeared to be having fun, asking, “Pilot guy, can this thing do a back flip, you think?”

The FBI, which also recovered parts of the cockpit voice recorder from the plane, said human remains were found at the crash site.

“I got a lot of people that care about me and it’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them,” Russell is heard saying before the recording ends. He called himself “just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess, never really knew it until now.”


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