A local SeaTac mechanic hijacked an empty airplane, flew several gutsy maneuvers, and crashed it into a sparsely inhabited island early Friday evening. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) confirmed that two F-15 fighter jets were immediately scrambled from Portland to intercept the stolen plane. The rogue pilot was later identified as Richard Russell, 29, from Sumner, Washington.
Authorities with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that Russell comandeered a 76-seater Horizoncommercial plane from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport early Friday night. He then flew the plane for close to an hour, performing a series of barrel rolls and wide loops before crashing crashing it into a wooded area on Ketron Island. It has since been confirmed that Russell was the only person aboard the plane at the time of its crash. The flight recorder is confirmed to be intact and in working condition.
Multiple witnesses watched the plane make the risky maneuvers and then plummet into the island. The plane was being pursued by two military F-15s who were attempting to guide it out over the open waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Russell was in near constant contact with air traffic controllers as they attempted to guide him to an airstrip where he could potentially land the plane.
“There is a runway just off to your right side in about a mile,” said the controller, reffering to an airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, in a flight deck recording.
“Oh man. Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there,” Russell in response. “This is probably jail time for life, huh?” Later in the recording, he described himself as a ”broken guy” with “a few screws loose.”
The FBI is currently investigating the plane hijacking and do not believe it was an act of terrorism at this time.