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Man who stole plane and died in crash had North Dakota ties

14 August 2018

A Seattle airline employee stole a commercial plane Friday night, taking to the air with military aircraft not far behind, and flew for an hour before crashing on a wooded island 40 miles away.

The family members of the man who stole an airplane and took it on a joy ride that cost him his life described him as "warm and compassionate" and said they are "stunned and heartbroken" over his death.

On Friday, Russell got into a pushback tractor, attached it to the empty aircraft and turned the airplane toward the runways, authorities said.

Two F-15 jets were scrambled in response to the stolen plane from the Oregon Air National Guard in Portland, Oregon.

In the US at the worldwide airport Seattle-Tacoma made an unauthorized landing on one of the planes in the night of Friday, August 10.

Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden also issued a statement. We believe he was in uniform.

She said airport officials have been in touch with other airports and airlines to begin to assess procedures.

Employees who work in secured areas are physically screened at SeaTac, a layer of security that many airports do not have.

Potential solutions could include additional vetting or monitoring of employees; changes in who can access the planes and when; having parked aircraft monitored by closed-circuit television or by security patrols; requiring electronic or digital passcodes to start a plane's engines; or requiring locks that could prevent an unauthorized person from manipulating a plane's throttle, experts said. His name has not been released.

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Russell's family said in a statement that they are stunned and heartbroken.

Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer told the Bellingham Herald that information was preliminary regarding the developing incident.

Video showed the Horizon Air Q400, a turboprop plane that seats 76 people, doing large loops and other unsafe manoeuvres as the sun set on Puget Sound. There were no passengers aboard. His job included directing aircraft for takeoff and gate approach, handling baggage and tidying and de-icing planes.

"We're fortunate in the sense that it wasn't a terrorist, someone focused on causing mass destruction", former TSA administrator John Pistole said.

Officials don't believe Russell had a pilot's license, and they don't know how he knew to fly the plane.

Russell's family said the incident came as a "complete shock to us".

Irwin Downes recorded a cloud of smoke billowing from Ketron Island after the crash. 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. But authorities say they didn't fire on it before it crashed.

Gregoire said airport workers undergo background checks.

The plane was stolen at around 8pm (3am GMT yesterday) and crashed 90 minutes later, officials said.

Man who stole plane and died in crash had North Dakota ties