The hijacking of the Seattle plane exposes the major cracks in airport security

Richard Russell, a 29-year-old Horizon Air employee, hijacked the 76-seat aircraft from the maintenance area at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Friday night

The theft of an empty plane by a suicide baggage handler who made dangerous loops before crashing in Seattle has exposed security breaches and illustrated the potential dangers of airport employees causing chaos.

Richard Russell, a 29-year-old Horizon Air employee, hijacked the 76-seat aircraft from the maintenance area at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and somehow managed to take off on Friday night.

The flight lasted about 75 minutes and ended when Russell crashed into a remote island in Puget Sound after being chased by military aircraft.

The whole test now has raised serious concerns about gaps in airport security, as investigators try to determine how the robbery was able to occur.

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Richard Russell, a 29-year-old Horizon Air employee, hijacked the 76-seat aircraft from the maintenance area at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Friday night

Richard Russell, a 29-year-old Horizon Air employee, hijacked the 76-seat aircraft from the maintenance area at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Friday night

Aviation experts said the incident shows what they've known for a long time: one of the greatest potential dangers to commercial air travel is that airline or airport employees cause chaos.

"The biggest threat we have to aviation is the internal threat," said Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent and transportation safety expert.

"Here we have an employee who was tested at the level to have access to the aircraft and had a skill set competent enough to take off with that plane."

Southers said Russell could have caused massive destruction.

"If I had the skills to do loops with a plane like this, I definitely had the ability to fly it to a building and kill people on the ground," he said.

Russell had worked with Horizon for three and a half years and was authorized to be among the planes.

Video footage showed Russell making long and dangerous loops in Seattle on Friday afternoon

Video footage showed Russell making long and dangerous loops in Seattle on Friday afternoon

Video footage showed Russell making long and dangerous loops in Seattle on Friday afternoon

The flight lasted about 75 minutes and ended when Russell crashed into a remote island in Puget Sound after being chased by military aircraft.

The flight lasted about 75 minutes and ended when Russell crashed into a remote island in Puget Sound after being chased by military aircraft.

The flight lasted about 75 minutes and ended when Russell crashed into a remote island in Puget Sound after being chased by military aircraft.

He did not have a pilot's license and it is not clear how he learned to fly. One expert said that he could have acquired some skills through the use of a computer flight simulator.

Terrestrial service agents, which is what was used as, direct airplanes for takeoff and door boarding and de-icing aircraft, as well as handle luggage.

Gary Beck, CEO of Horizon Air, said it was not clear how Russell knew how to start the engine, which requires a series of switches and levers.

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

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

Researchers hope they can retrieve both the cockpit voice recorder and the event data recorder from the plane.

You could hear Russell on audio recordings talking to the air traffic controllers, who tried to convince him to land the plane.

Russell's family said on Saturday they are "shocked and heartbroken" by the ordeal. He is represented above with his wife Hannah

Russell's family said on Saturday they are "shocked and heartbroken" by the ordeal. He is represented above with his wife Hannah

Russell's family said on Saturday they are "shocked and heartbroken" by the ordeal. He is represented above with his wife Hannah

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

& # 39; Oh man. Those guys will mistreat me if I try to land there, "Russell replied, and then added," This is probably jail for life, huh? "

Later, Russell said: & # 39; I have many people who care about me. They'll be disappointed to hear that I did this … Only a broken guy has some loose screws, I guess.

Russell's family said on Saturday they are "shocked and heartbroken" by the ordeal. Russell was remembered in a family statement read by his friends at a press conference as a "faithful husband" to his wife, Hannah, and a "good friend who was loved by everyone."

"It may seem difficult for those who look at home to believe, but Beebo was a warm and compassionate man," they wrote, referring to Russell's nickname.

The family described his death as a "complete shock" and added: "We are devastated by these events and Jesus is truly the only one who keeps this family together at this time."

"As the voice recordings show, Beebo's intention was not to harm anyone and he was right to say that there are many people who love him," they wrote.

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