New Audio Recordings Shed Light on How Plane Heist at SEA Was Possible

Sep 13, 2018

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The Seattle Times has uncovered new evidence on Richard Russell, the ground crew member for Alaska subsidiary airline Horizon who stole a jet from the Seattle-Tacoma Airport in August and died when he crashed the plane after a 75-minute joyride.

According to interviews and newly released emergency dispatch recordings, Russell was caught in the cockpit of an unoccupied aircraft a year before he stole the Horizon Q400 plane from the SEA tarmac.

A pilot for Sky West Airlines, Joel Monteith, called an emergency dispatcher after he saw Russell and another man in the cockpit of an empty aircraft at SEA “pointing and flipping switches.” Monteith said he confronted the two men, and when he asked what they were doing, they said they were learning how to use the aircraft auxiliary power in order to tow it — one of their responsibilities as ground crew.

But for Monteith, their behavior still raised alarm bells — enough so that he called the emergency line. “They kind of … started to get up and then leave the airplane when I confronted them,” Monteith said. “So, that was kind of suspicious.”

The exchange about the incident between Monteith and the emergency dispatcher was captured in an audio recording obtained by the Seattle Times in a state Public Records Act request — one of several new pieces of evidence that surfaced as a result of that information dump.

Furthermore, Monteith, who is 55 and has been a pilot for 30 years, told the dispatcher that he remembered interacting with Russell once in the cockpit of a Embraer E-175 Monteith was flying. In that encounter, Monteith remembers 29-year-old Russell “asking questions (and) wanting to do my flows, which is the preflight preparation I do for takeoff.”

At about 8:00pm local time on August 10, Russell stole an empty Bombardier Q400 aircraft from SEA. Russell did several aerial stunts that he told air traffic controllers he learned from playing “video games before,” and then he crashed the plane on Ketron Island in south Puget Sound after being chased by US Air Force F-15s.

“I don’t think the thing with this guy is like a plot that this dude just came up with like overnight,” Monteith told the Seattle Times. “I think that maybe this guy had been thinking about doing this for a long time and then maybe the Q400 that he took was just an airplane of opportunity.”

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.