Youtube/Handout via REUTERS
- Horizon Air employee Richard Russell stole one of the airline’s Bombardier Q400 aircraft on Friday. Russell took the plane on an hour-long flight before crashing.
- Airline pilot Patrick Smith of AskThePilot.com said concern over the security threat posed by airline employees is overblown.
Editor’s note: Patrick Smith is a commercial airline pilot who currently flies Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft. Smith also runs the blog AskThePilot.com and is the author of the book “Cockpit Confidential.”
On Friday night at Sea-Tac airport in Seattle, a 29-year-old employee of Horizon Air purloined one of the carrier’s Dash-8 Q400 turboprops. Richard Russell, a ground service worker, took the 76-seat aircraft for an hour long joyride before crashing onto an island in the southern end of Puget Sound. Russell was killed.
In the wake of this unfortunate incident, the media is going a little bonkers over the idea of airline employees appropriating aircraft and causing mayhem. “One of the biggest potential perils for commercial air travel,” is how one CBS news story described it. In the same story, Erroll Southers, a transportation security expert, said, “The inside threat is the greatest threat we have to aviation.”
Looking back over the history of air crimes, only a tiny fraction of which have involved rogue airline workers, I’m unsure what prompted Southers to say such a thing. If he’s talking about the potential for non-pilot employees to smuggle drugs or possibly plant explosives, that’s one thing. But stealing airplanes is something else.
The Q400, built by Bombardier of Canada, is a small but highly sophisticated aircraft, and Mr. Russell clearly had some understanding of its systems. He was a member of Horizon’s “tow team,” and was qualified to occupy the captain’s seat while the aircraft was under tow — a position that requires at least elementary training in the plane’s hydraulic, electrical, and communications systems. See the rest of the story at Business Insider
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