He cracked jokes, complimented the professional demeanour of an air traffic controller and apologised for making a fuss.
But the friendly tone of a 29-year-old airport worker who stole a commercial plane Friday night, performing acrobatic stunts before the fatal plunge into a thick island forest, belied his desperate actions.
“I think I’m going to try to do a barrel roll, and if that goes good I’ll go nose down and call it a night,” Richard Russell said from the cockpit, according to a recording of his conversation with the controller.
The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Sunday that Russell had died in the fiery wreckage, but whether the crash was deliberate or accidental was one of several topics remaining for investigators.
Others include how, nearly 17 years after the 9/11 attack, someone can simply take a passenger plane from a major US airport without authorization.
The Seattle FBI office said Sunday that it had recovered the flight data recorder and components of the cockpit voice recorder from the Horizon plane.
Tragic as Russell’s death was, he could have inflicted vastly more damage had he been so inclined. Potential targets included tens of thousands of fans assembling at Safeco Field, about 12 miles (19 kilometers) away, for a sold-out Pearl Jam concert just as he took off.“Last night’s event is going to push us to learn what we can from this tragedy so that we can ensure this does not happen again at Alaska Air Group or at any other airline,” Brad Tilden,