On Friday night, Richard Russell hijacked a plane. Less than two hours later, he was dead.

On Friday night, Richard Russell stole a plane.

The 29-year-old Horizon Air employee commandeered the passenger plane from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport at 7:32pm on Friday.

As the New York Times reports, he then preceded to fly in loops over the water while being tailed by fighter jets.

Air traffic controllers, who affectionately referred to him as “Rich”, tried to guide Richard towards a safe landing.

He chatted to them throughout the flight, sometimes calmly, sometimes frenzied and fraught with emotion.

Richard spoke of feeling lightheaded and was concerned about the possible prison sentence he would face if he safely landed the plane.

When asked whether he was comfortable flying the plane, Richard responded: “It’s a blast, man. I played video games before so, you know, I know what I’m doing a little bit.”

But he was worried about the impact his flight would have on the people around him.

“I’ve got a lot of people that care about me. It’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this,” he said at one point.

“I would like to apologise to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew it until now.”

He also apologised to the air traffic controllers.

“Man, I’m sorry about this. I hope this doesn’t ruin your day,” he said to the controller. “I’m glad you’re not, you know, screwing up everyone else’s day on account of me.”

Richard then spoke about wanting to have a “moment of serenity” but complained that the sights “went by so fast”.


According to The Guardian, the plane then crashed into a deserted island in nearby Puget Sound at 8:47pm. Richard is presumed to have died in the crash.

Richard’s friend, Tim Orr, told the New York Times Richard was unhappy that he didn’t even receive the minimum wage of $15 per hour for his job as a baggage handler for the airline.

Richard had spoken about finding another job, but he really enjoyed the travel benefits of his current role.

Orr also said his friend “doesn’t really fit the bill of someone who would steal an airplane”.

“Funniest person in the room,” he added. “Nicest person in the room.”

“I feel really bad for Richard and for his family. I hope they can make it through this,” retired Horizon Air operations supervisor Rick Christenson told the Seattle Times.

At a media conference on Saturday night, friend of the family Mike Mathews spoke affectionately about the man they called “Beebo”.

“He was a faithful husband, a loving son, and a good friend,” Mathews said. “Beebo was loved by everyone because he was kind and gentle to each person he met.”

Richard had been working at the airline for three years. He did not have a pilot license.

The FBI is now working with the airline and the airport to investigate the incident.

“We are going to be thorough, which means taking the time needed to scour the area, delve into the background of the individual believed responsible, and review every aspect of this incident with all appropriate public and private partners,” the office said in a statement.

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