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Home / Business / Aircraft thief said that he trained on games, did not plan to land

Aircraft thief said that he trained on games, did not plan to land



Horizon Air's ground worker, who stole a twin-engined plane and drove over Puget Sound on a wild ride before he died in an accident, said he had experience with flight simulators he called "video games" [19659002] Some of Roger Roger's statements about air traffic controllers may provide clues to the police and aviation authorities investigating how he managed to perform aerobatic maneuvers in a sophisticated aircraft.

Mr. Russell, who had stolen the 76-seat turboprop from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Friday night, had no pilot's license, according to the airline. But during radio communications with air traffic controllers urging him to land, Mr. Russell, 29 years old, repeatedly referred to his experience with computer-controlled flight simulator programs.

Government and industry aviation security experts said Saturday that references indicated he had access to desktop simulators ̵

1; perhaps with the same Bombardier Q400 model he had stolen on Friday – that had the performance of aircraft systems, maneuvers and even Can realistically emulate air traffic controller instructions.

Such simulator software is (19659003) According to an unofficial audio recording of Mr. Russell's radio communication with controllers on Friday, a controller speaking on the open channel said he was "just flying around" and that Mr. Russell was helping to control the aircraft could use. Mr. Russell replied quickly, "I do not need much help, I've played some video games already."

At another point, he said, "I know how to take off the landing gear." He added, "I had not really going to land it. "

Sir. Russell's apparent familiarity with at least some of the controls – he explicitly mentioned the system that regulates cabin pressure – suggests a strong understanding of cockpit layout and flight operations.

But his flying skills, including the autopilot and maneuver That would be daunting even to an experienced Q400 pilot, but surprised some experts.

Safety adviser John Cox, a former flight pilot, accident investigator, and chief security officer for North America's largest aviation union, said it was "hard to believe he flew as well as he did based on a video game."

Those who Mr. Russell Family friend Mike Mathews said in a statement on behalf of Russell's friends and family that he was shocked by his alleged actions.

"It may seem difficult for those who watch at home, but Beebo was a warm, compassionate man," he said, using a nickname for Mr. Russell. "We are shaken by these events."

Horizon said that Mr. Russell was hired as a ground services agent in February 2015, and conducted a criminal investigation every few years. It was not known that he had a criminal record. Mr. Russell was allowed to access secure areas of Seattle Airport as part of his job. He was also qualified to help tow aircraft.

Brad Tilden of Alaska Air Group said it seems that Mr. Russell's shift worked as usual on Friday. Horizon is an Alaska daughter.

But Mr. Russell lacked a pilot license, said Horizon Chief Executive Gary Beck on Saturday. It is not clear where he has learned to start the engine of the aircraft, a procedure that includes a complex set of switches and levers, he said.

"Commercial aircraft are complex machines," said Beck. "I do not know how he got the experience he did."

At one point, Mr. Russell asked the controllers if they thought he could become a pilot himself.

"Hey, do you think when I land, will Alaska successfully give me a job as a pilot?" He says in unofficial air traffic control.

"You know, I think they'll give you a job if you can do that," someone answered.

He wrote on a website he created that he was born in Key West, Florida, and moved to Alaska at the age of seven. He met his wife Hannah while he was at school in Coos Bay, Oregon, in 2010.

Mr. Russell wrote that his work as a ground service employee at Horizon had "exposed him to some pretty incredible things up and down the ramp."

He said that the work could be monotone. "I lift a lot of bags, how many bags, so many bags," he said in a video released on YouTube in December. "But I can also do some pretty cool stuff," he added as the video showed shots and pictures of his travels to France, Ireland, Alaska and other destinations.

"It balances out in the end," he said

Mr. Russell told the controller he wanted to apologize for what he did to people he cares about.

"I want to apologize to each and every one of them," he said. "I'm just a broken guy, have a few screws loose, I guess, never really knew until now."

Write to Alison Sider at alison.sider@wsj.com, Andy Pasztor from andy.pasztor@wsj.com and Jay Greene to Jay.Greene@wsj.com


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