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Stolen plane closes Seattle-Tacoma airport before crashing

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Plane followed by fighter jets

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Media captionPlane followed by fighter jets

An airline employee who stole an empty passenger plane from Seattle airport has crashed on a nearby island.

Authorities said the man had made "an unauthorised take-off" late on Friday local time, forcing Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to close.

Two F15 fighter jets pursued the plane, which crashed in Puget Sound. The man is not believed to have survived.

The local sheriff's office said it was "not a terrorist incident", adding that the man was local and aged 29.

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor later told reporters it appeared to be "a joyride gone terribly wrong", according to ABC7 News, adding "most terrorists don't do loops over the water".

 

What happened exactly?

The twin engine turboprop Bombardier Q400 belonging to Alaska Airlines' sister carrier Horizon Air took off from Seattle-Tacoma at about 20:00 local time (03:00 GMT).

Ben Schaechter was on a plane which was apparently taxiing down the runway as the stolen plane took off.

"Okay this insane," he tweeted. "A pilot on the plane in front of us just went rogue and took off on an empty plane bypassing orders from the tower. The tower ordered a full stop and they're trying to communicate with that pilot. Whaaaaaat!"

White space

The two fighter jets were quickly scrambled. A number of videos showed them following the passenger plane, which was flying over the area in an erratic manner.

Neither of the fighter jets was involved in the crash when the plane came down about an hour later in the south of Ketron Island, about 30 miles (48km) south of the airport, officials said.

Sheriff Pastor told KIRO7 news station in Seattle the man had most likely been killed in the crash.

Why did he steal the plane?

It isn't immediately clear. However, an audio recording of the conversations he had with air traffic control give some insight into what happened on the plane after the Horizon Air employee took off.

In the recording, the man can be heard starting to worry about how much fuel he had on board. He also suggests he could land the aircraft by himself because he had played "some video games".

The man, who is referred to by what is believed to be his first name, also discusses:

  • The co-ordinates for the orca carrying her dead calf on her back
  • Looking at the view and possibly going to look at the Olympic Mountains, in Washington State
  • If he can do a barrel roll before landing and "calling it a day"
  • Whether or not Alaska Airlines would give him a job after a successful landing

The Seattle Times describes the man as sounding "carefree and wild".

What did the eyewitnesses see?

Eyewitness John Waldron told CNN he watched the plane do "a complete loop", before it went "pretty much straight up. And kind of at an angle. And almost stalled the aircraft".

"Somehow he got it levelled back off," he told the broadcaster. "And then made his way down toward the island."

At one point, he estimated, the plane was no more than 100ft (30.5m) above the water.

A still taken from a video showing the plane above the waterImage copyright AFP Image caption The plane flew very low to the water

Leah Morse, who filmed the jet flying overhead, told news agency Reuters she felt in her "gut something was wrong" after spotting the plane.

Ms Morse's mother, who lives closer to the area where the plane went down, said her whole house shook.

"We saw the jets circle back after and she texted that there was no plane," she added.

How did this happen?

Alaska Airlines said the plane was taken from a "maintenance position" in the airport. However, how it came to be on the runway is unclear.

Planes of this size do not come with keys, aviation safety investigator David Gleave, of Loughborough University, explained to the BBC.

But after he managed to start the plane, taking off and flying it around would not have been that difficult, Mr Gleave said.

Flames burn in the dark in a forestImage copyright CBS Image caption Footage shows a fire burning in the spot where the plane went down

"There is an awfully big amount of sky to play with," he explained. "Getting the thing back down again is where all the mechanical skills come in."

As for air traffic control, it would have taken them less than a minute to realise something had gone wrong, Mr Gleave added.

What happens next?

The FBI has taken over the investigation, according to the local police department.

Alaska said it was "working closely with the authorities and our own safety teams to thoroughly understand this incident".

Meanwhile, "normal operations at Sea-Tac Airport" had resumed within a few hours, according to a tweet sent by the airport.

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A Horizon Air Q400 crashed on Ketron Island near Seattle-Tacoma Airport in Washington State and there are reports that it was stolen by a suicidal mechanic. It was confirmed late Friday that it was not a terrorist act.  Early reports say a “mechanic from an unknown airline” took off without authorization from Sea Tac in the regional airliner and was seen “doing stunts” before it was intercepted by a pair of F-15s. It crashed shortly afterward. Local authorities said the plane was not shot down and some reports said that it was crashed intentionally. Others said the aircraft was herded away from densely populated areas by the fighters and crashed in a sparsely populated area. Pierce County Sheriff's department said the mechanic was 29 years old and has been identified. We will be following up on this story as new details become available.

https://www.avweb.com/avwebflash/news/Suicidal-Mechanic-Crashes-Q400-Reports-231366-1.html

 

 

 

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Extraordinary professionalism of Seattle air traffic controllers

ATW Editor's Blog

Extraordinary professionalism of Seattle air traffic controllers

Aug 11, 2018 by Karen Walker in ATW Editor's Blog
 
 

There are lots of questions to be answered about Friday night’s bizarre incident in Seattle when a Horizon Air employee stole and crashed a Q400, but for now let’s acknowledge the incredible job done by the Air National Guard pilots and the air traffic controllers who handled the situation.

The two F-15C pilots, from the 142nd Fighter Wing in Portland, Oregon, were scrambled to intercept the Q400 after it was confirmed that an unauthorized person had taken the aircraft from Seattle’s SeaTac airport, taken off and was flying over the area. They were, the Washington state governor said, “ready to do whatever was needed to protect us”, but they also seemed quickly to realize that this was a distressed individual, not a terrorist. They steered the aircraft away from the city.

Hearing the conversation between the guy who was piloting the plane and ATC is even more remarkable. The controller is calm, trying to work out a solution to get the aircraft down safely, but also compassionate. It’s heartbreaking to hear this man describe himself as “broken” and say he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. He mentions how beautiful the Olympic mountains are and ATC responds, “ya, I have been out there, it’s always a nice drive.”

All the time, under what must have been incredible stress, ATC is working to getting a safe ending, pointing out a nearby runway that could be used, offering help on how to fly safely, and keeping the person talking. They couldn’t save this person, but they were instrumental in ensuring this wasn’t a much worse incident.

 

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August 11, 2018 11:43 am

Updated: August 11, 2018 12:13 pm

Authorities probe how airline

News: Seattle airport plane theft 'very unusual,' NTSB saysx
 

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Investigators worked to find out how an airline employee stole an empty Horizon Air turboprop plane, took off from Sea-Tac International Airport and crashed into a small island in the Puget Sound after being chased by military jets that were quickly scrambled to intercept the aircraft.

The bizarre incident involving a worker authorities said was suicidal points to one of the biggest potential perils for commercial air travel – airline or airport employees causing mayhem.

“The greatest threat we have to aviation is the insider threat,” Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent and transportation security expert, told The Associated Press. “Here we have an employee who was vetted to the level to have access to the aircraft and had a skill set proficient enough to take off with that plane.”

The Friday night crash happened because the 29-year-old man was “doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills,” the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said. The man, who was believed killed, wasn’t immediately identified.

There was no connection to terrorism, Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the sheriff’s department, said.

Video showed the Horizon Air Q400 doing large loops and other dangerous manoeuvrs as the sun set on Puget Sound. There were no passengers aboard.

Authorities initially said the man was a mechanic, but Alaska Airlines later said he was believed to be a ground service agent employed by Horizon. Those employees direct aircraft for takeoff and gate approach and de-ice planes.

READ MORE: Plane crashes in Puget Sound after airline employee stole aircraft at Sea-Tac airport

Southers, the aviation security expert, said the man could have caused mass destruction. “If he had the skill set to do loops with a plane like this, he certainly had the capacity to fly it into a building and kill people on the ground.,” he said.

The plane was pursued by military aircraft before it crashed on tiny Ketron Island, southwest of Tacoma, Washington. Video showed fiery flames amid trees on the island, which is sparsely populated and only accessible by ferry. No structures on the ground were damaged, Alaska Airlines said.

Troyer said F-15 aircraft took off out of Portland, Oregon, were in the air “within a few minutes,” and the pilots kept “people on the ground safe.”

Sheriff’s department officials said they were working to conduct a background investigation on the Pierce County resident.

The aircraft was stolen about 8 p.m. Alaska Airlines said it was in a “maintenance position” and not scheduled for a passenger flight. Horizon Air is part of Alaska Air Group and flies shorter routes throughout the U.S. West. The Q400 is a turboprop aircraft with 76 seats.

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said the man “did something foolish and may well have paid with his life.”

The man could be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he is “just a broken guy.” An air traffic controller called the man “Rich,” and tried to convince the man to land the airplane.

“There is a runway just off to your right side in about a mile,” the controller says, referring to an airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

“Oh man. Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there,” the man responded, later adding “This is probably jail time for life, huh?”

Later the man said: “I’ve got a lot of people that care about me. It’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this … Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess.”

Flights out of Sea-Tac, the largest commercial airport in the Pacific Northwest, were temporarily grounded during the drama.

The plane crashed in a heavily wooded area of thick underbrush on the island, according to Debra Eckrote, the Western Pacific regional chief for the National Transportation Safety Board. The crash sparked a 2-acre wilfire.

“It is highly fragmented,” she said of the plane. “The wings are off, the fuselage is, I think, kind of positioned upside down.”

The FBI is looking into the man’s background and try to determine his motive, she said. Investigators are trying to find how he got on the plane.

“He’s ground support so they have access to aircrafts,” she said of the man.

Investigators expect they will be able to recover both the cockpit voice recorder and the event data recorder from the plane.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Saturday morning that President Donald Trump is “monitoring the situation.”

READ MORE: Fuel mismanagement forced plane’s emergency landing on Calgary roadway: TSB

Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden said in a statement early Saturday morning that the airline was “working to find out everything we possibly can about what happened.”

The airline was co-ordinating with the Federal Aviation Administration, the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board, he said.

Royal King told The Seattle Times he was photographing a wedding when he saw the low-flying turboprop being chased by two F-15s. He said he didn’t see the crash but saw smoke.

“It was unfathomable, it was something out of a movie,” he told the newspaper.

Gov. Jay Inslee thanked the Air National Guard from Washington and Oregon for scrambling jets and said in a statement “there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding tonight’s tragic incident.”“

“The responding fighter pilots flew alongside the aircraft and were ready to do whatever was needed to protect us, but in the end the man flying the stolen plane crashed,” Inslee said.

 

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FBI takes over investigation of crashed Horizon Q400

  • 11 August, 2018
  • SOURCE: Flight Dashboard
  • BY: Jon Hemmerdinger
  • Boston

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has taken charge of the inquiry into a stolen Horizon Air turboprop that crashed on 10 August after a short flight during which the aircraft performed aerobatic-like manoeuvres while pursued by air force fighter jets.

A 29-year-old Horizon employee who apparently lacked a pilot's license stole the Bombardier Q400 (registration N499QX) and died when the aircraft crashed in a wooded area in Pierce County in Washington state, officials say.

Officials do not believe anyone else was injured, although they stress the investigation is ongoing."We are diligently investigating this matter… I have dozens of personnel out at the crash site," FBI special agent Jay Tabb tells reporters during a press conference on 11 August. "At this time we believe he was the only one in the aircraft."

Horizon chief executive Gary Beck says: "A Horizon Air ground service agent departed in a Horizon Air Q400 without clearance... The plane was taken from a maintenance position and was not scheduled for passenger flight."

Horizon is the regional subsidiary of Alaska Air Group, operating flights marketed by Alaska Airlines.

"All of us at Alaska and Horizon are deeply saddened by last night's unauthorised flight… that resulted in a loss of life," says Alaska chief executive Brad Tilden. "We are working closely with the authorities."

Prior to crashing, the ground service agent exchanged bizarre radio messages with officials on the ground.

"I've got a lot of people that care about me and it's going to disappoint them… that I did this," he says, according to recordings available at www.liveatc.net. "I would like to apologise. Just a broken guy. I have a few screws loose."

People on the ground shot video apparently showing the Q400 performing rolls and descending steeply to low altitude above water. Videos also show fighter jets tailing the Q400.

"There were some manoeuvres that were [performed] that were incredible," an Alaska official tells reporters.

The FBI's Seattle office confirms the federal agency is leading the inquiry. The US National Transportation Safety Board is helping the FBI and will examine the Q400's cockpit voice and data recorders at labs in Washington DC, it says.

The event was "not a terrorist incident", but rather the work of "a single suicide male", says the Pierce County Sheriff's office in tweets. The sheriff's office identifies the pilot as a 29-year-old Pierce County resident.

Bombardier manufactured the Q400 in 2012 and it had accumulated 14,200h and 15,000 cycles as of April, according to Flight Fleets Analyzer.

The ground service agent stole the aircraft from where it was parked in a cargo area at the north end of the airport, Tilden tells reporters. Like other ground service agents, the employee had access to secure areas of the airport where aircraft is parked.

The employee had worked earlier in the day and had finished his shift, and was still in uniform. He used a pushback tractor to rotate the aircraft 180˚ before getting into the aircraft and taxiing out, say Alaska executives.

It was not immediately clear how the aircraft made it to the runway without being stopped. Alaska executives declined to speculate, saying the investigation is ongoing.

Horizon hired the employee in February 2015 and had vetted him via background checks, the airline says. The employee's job included loading and unloading aircraft, and working aircraft tugs, officials say.

The aircraft took off without clearance from Seattle Tacoma International airport at about 19:32 local time, and Alaska lost contact with the Q400 at about 20:47.

The Federal Aviation Administration notified the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) of the incident, and NORAD quickly dispatched two Boeing F-15C fighters from Portland to intercept the Q400.

"The fighters were directed to fly supersonic to expedite the intercept," NORAD says in a statement.

Fighters intercepted the Q400 south of the airport, near McCord Air Force Base, NORAD says. The military pilots tried to direct the Q400 pilot to fly toward the Pacific Ocean.

"NORAD fighters did not fire upon the aircraft," NORAD adds.

ATC RECORDINGS

Officials communicated with the Horizon employee via radio for at least 20min during the flight, trying to convince him to make a controlled landing or ditch the aircraft.

"Can this thing do a back flip, do you think?" the employee says. "I'm going to try to do a barrel roll, and if that goes good I'm just going to nose it down and call it a night."

"Before you do that, let's think about this," controllers respond.

The pilot then talks about the beauty of the nearby Olympic Mountains and says he expected to have a "moment of serenity".

Eventually, he says: "I feel like one of my engines is going out".

The aircraft ultimately crashed about 25nm (46kmn) southwest of the airport on Ketron Island in the southern Puget Sound, officials say.

"It is highly fragmented. The wings are off. The fuselage is... upside down," NTSB regional chief Debra Eckrote tells reporters on 11 August. Work is underway to locate the aircraft's cockpit voice and flight data recorders.

"Last night there was a fire, so they weren't able to identify everything," she adds. "The terrain is thick underbrush… and heavily wooded."

 

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It's inevitable, the fan is starting to turn and the spotlight will be on how to fix this one of a kind hole …...

Quote

Alaska Air employee who stole plane that crashed exposes aviation's blind spots

  • The Horizon Air worker stole the plane Friday night from Seattle-Tacoma Airport before crashing at a nearby island.
  • The rare incident highlights how the aviation industry is sometimes challenges to provide access as well as ensure security.
Published 36 Mins Ago CNBC.com
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
An Alaska Airlines Bombardier Q-400 regional turbo prop plane
George Rose | Getty Images
An Alaska Airlines Bombardier Q-400 regional turbo prop plane

The theft of an Alaska Air Group turboprop plane by an employee whom authorities described as "suicidal" underscores a challenge in the aviation sector: Balancing access with security.

 

Access to planes came with the job, even though Alaska's CEO Brad Tilden said the man's work had ended for the day and the aircraft, and the 76-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprop plane of regional unit Horizon Air, was not scheduled to fly that evening.

"Yesterday's events will push us to learn what we can from this tragedy so that we can help prevent it from ever happening again, at our airline or any other," Tilden said at a news conference Saturday.

'Not designed' for these kinds of incidents

Airlines and airports need workers to have ready access to their equipment and the airfield, which is essential to their work. The unusual incident showed the limits of securing facilities, as well as in monitoring employees and addressing potential mental health issues, experts told CNBC.

"The physical security layers in the airport are not designed to protect (against) this," said Jeff Price, an aviation security consultant, professor at the Metropolitan State University in Denver and a former airport ramp worker. Some measures to avoid this kind of incident are in the hiring process and psychological evaluations, Price said, while those are not always foolproof.

Executives said the employee had passed background checks, and that he did not have a pilot license.

The employee used a tow to turn the plane around 180 degrees before he taxied to a runway, the company said. After taking off, made dramatic loops in the air before it crashed, video shot by onlookers showed.

"We don't know how he learned to do that," said Horizon's CEO Gary Beck, about how the employee came to operate the aircraft, noting the ignition on a plane isn't like that of a car. A Q400 captain at another airline, who declined to provide a name because the person is not authorized to speak to the media, told CNBC that the process of starting up the plane is complex.

Getting one of nearly two-dozen steps wrong in starting up the airplane would immediately derail it, this person said. However, opening aircraft doors is far less challenging, Price and the captain noted.

Authorities have made changes to better screen pilots for mental health problems, after a pilot intentionally crashed a Germanwings jet into a mountainside in March 2015, killing all 150 on board. The European Commission last month adopted new rules, which take effect in 2020, that require airlines to psychologically screen pilots.

The Q400 captain who spoke to CNBC and flies in North America, said that routine health screenings since that the Germanwings crash do include some questions about pilots' mental state. However, the incident on Friday is a rare and difficult issue to address.

"This isn't something the industry plans for protecting against," Price said.

 

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Without a name published, how did you find that video,  conehead?

i was taxiing into the gate in YVR about 2300 last night when the ground controller said something about a Q400 crashing near SEA.

Sad event.  I’m sorry the individual did not seek the help he needed prior to this.

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Plane theft sparks concerns about 'insider threat' to air travel


Rachel La Corte and Keith Ridler, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, August 12, 2018 9:24AM EDT

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The theft of an empty plane by an airline worker who performed dangerous loops before crashing into a remote island in Puget Sound illustrated what aviation experts have long known: One of the biggest potential perils for commercial air travel is airline or airport employees causing mayhem.

"The greatest threat we have to aviation is the insider threat," said Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent and transportation security expert. "Here we have an employee who was vetted to the level to have access to the aircraft and had a skill set proficient enough to take off with that plane."

Video showed the Horizon Air Q400, a turboprop plane that seats 76 people, doing large loops and other dangerous manoeuvrs as the sun set on Puget Sound. The flight lasted about 75 minutes, and ended when he crashed into the small island after being chased by military jets. The two F-15C aircraft scrambled from Portland didn't fire the plane, authorities said

 Southers said the man could have caused mass destruction.

"If he had the skill set to do loops with a plane like this, he certainly had the capacity to fly it into a building and kill people on the ground," he said.

A U.S. official briefed on the matter told The Associated Press the man was Richard Russell. The official wasn't authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity. He is presumed to have died in the crash.

Officials said he was a 3.5-year Horizon employee and had clearance to be among aircraft, but that to their knowledge, he wasn't a licensed pilot. He took the empty plane from a maintenance area.

It's unclear how Russell attained the skills to do loops in the aircraft, authorities said. Ground service agents direct aircraft for takeoff and gate approach and de-ice planes, as well as handle baggage.

Gary Beck, CEO of Horizon Air, said it wasn't clear how the man knew to start the engine, which requires a series of switches and levers.

At a news conference, officials from Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air said that they are working with authorities.

"Last night's event is going to push us to learn what we can from this tragedy so that we can ensure this does not happen again at Alaska Air Group or at any other airline," said Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines.

Investigators expect they will be able to recover both the cockpit voice recorder and the event data recorder from the plane.

Russell could be heard on audio recordings talking to air traffic controllers, who tried to convince him to land the airplane.

"There is a runway just off to your right side in about a mile," the controller says, referring to an airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"Oh man. Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there," Russell responded, later adding "This is probably jail time for life, huh?"

Later Russell said: "I've got a lot of people that care about me. It's going to disappoint them to hear that I did this ... Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess."

Russell's family said in a statement that they are stunned and heartbroken. They referenced the recordings and said and that it's clear Russell, who went by the nickname "Beebo," didn't intend to harm anyone and "he was right in saying that there are so many people who loved him."

 

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Gary Beck, CEO of Horizon Air, said it wasn't clear how the man knew to start the engine, which requires a series of switches and levers.

Anyone working on the ramp and especially for a smaller carrier are going to be exposed to other duties which may not be in their job description. I bet at sometime he sat in the jumpseat with pilots or engineers learning many things. And there are no shortage of home use flight simulators. No big mystery here. 

Edited by blues deville
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2 hours ago, Kip Powick said:

I hear he used a 3-D printer to make an ignition key.....

I heard the same thing!  CNN reporters suggesting that 3D printers be made illegal to prevent this from happening again!

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17 hours ago, seeker said:

I heard the same thing!  CNN reporters suggesting that 3D printers be made illegal to prevent this from happening again!

And some are calling for all aircraft to be made safe by having a "Boot" placed on their tires to prevent illegal use.   )

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Imminent FAA Regulations mandating that small aircraft not in secure hangars must be locked down on the tarmac for security reasons are in the works. (We’ve been advised that some airports already require this)

Nobody wants an unauthorized user to steal and pilot an airplane for any purpose – especially not your aircraft! The liability and insurance issues involved with NOT locking down an aircraft during storage are only increasing. Our aircraft wheel boots are an inexpensive, highly effective solution.

 

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I hope they bury him in a well marked grave. So we all can find him and piss on it. The security idiots are going to have a field day, and inflict all kinds of human rights violations on innocent people.

Now that he has been "Barried", could you please Berry him Seeker !

 

Edited by Tango Foxtrot
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14 minutes ago, Tango Foxtrot said:

I hope they barry him in a well marked grave. So we all can find him and piss on it. The security idiots are going to have a field day, and inflict all kinds of human rights violations on innocent people.

 

Barry?

image.png.7f42ba2da7a9904e79411203fd300738.png

image.png.0b1b4624be13bc0fc0e2e23f9a2290bf.png

 

image.png.3dd940d39de841f5dc8c2bf36e3faf62.png

 

image.png.65736b8d146d50d07fc1b97fd2da9e4f.png

 

 

 

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14 hours ago, Malcolm said:

And Fox is calling for all aircraft to be made safe by having a "Boot" placed on their tires to prevent illegal use.

 

Oh great. Just before pushback it'll now be "Oh crap, did you unlock the wheel boot?" :(

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On 8/12/2018 at 9:25 AM, Malcolm said:

Plane theft sparks concerns about 'insider threat' to air travel

 

Rachel La Corte and Keith Ridler, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, August 12, 2018 9:24AM EDT

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The theft of an empty plane by an airline worker who performed dangerous loops before crashing into a remote island in Puget Sound illustrated what aviation experts have long known: One of the biggest potential perils for commercial air travel is airline or airport employees causing mayhem.

"The greatest threat we have to aviation is the insider threat," said Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent and transportation security expert. "Here we have an employee who was vetted to the level to have access to the aircraft and had a skill set proficient enough to take off with that plane."

Video showed the Horizon Air Q400, a turboprop plane that seats 76 people, doing large loops and other dangerous manoeuvrs as the sun set on Puget Sound. The flight lasted about 75 minutes, and ended when he crashed into the small island after being chased by military jets. The two F-15C aircraft scrambled from Portland didn't fire the plane, authorities said

 Southers said the man could have caused mass destruction.

"If he had the skill set to do loops with a plane like this, he certainly had the capacity to fly it into a building and kill people on the ground," he said.

A U.S. official briefed on the matter told The Associated Press the man was Richard Russell. The official wasn't authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity. He is presumed to have died in the crash.

Officials said he was a 3.5-year Horizon employee and had clearance to be among aircraft, but that to their knowledge, he wasn't a licensed pilot. He took the empty plane from a maintenance area.

It's unclear how Russell attained the skills to do loops in the aircraft, authorities said. Ground service agents direct aircraft for takeoff and gate approach and de-ice planes, as well as handle baggage.

Gary Beck, CEO of Horizon Air, said it wasn't clear how the man knew to start the engine, which requires a series of switches and levers.

At a news conference, officials from Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air said that they are working with authorities.

"Last night's event is going to push us to learn what we can from this tragedy so that we can ensure this does not happen again at Alaska Air Group or at any other airline," said Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines.

Investigators expect they will be able to recover both the cockpit voice recorder and the event data recorder from the plane.

Russell could be heard on audio recordings talking to air traffic controllers, who tried to convince him to land the airplane.

"There is a runway just off to your right side in about a mile," the controller says, referring to an airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"Oh man. Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there," Russell responded, later adding "This is probably jail time for life, huh?"

Later Russell said: "I've got a lot of people that care about me. It's going to disappoint them to hear that I did this ... Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess."

Russell's family said in a statement that they are stunned and heartbroken. They referenced the recordings and said and that it's clear Russell, who went by the nickname "Beebo," didn't intend to harm anyone and "he was right in saying that there are so many people who loved him."

Wait till the experts figure out that absolutely everything has an "inside threat." 

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