Cockpit voice recorder found in wreckage of plane stolen by ramp worker in Seattle

Richard Russell dies after stealing commuter plane


SEATTLE – Federal agents are trying to piece together how and why an airport ramp worker stole a plane in Seattle and later died during a crash landing.

The incident has sparked concern and a call for security changes at airports across the country.

There was confusion and concern in the control tower and questions on the ground when the baggage handler at Seattle's Sea-Tac Airport stole an empty commuter plane.

Now, officials know what Richard Russell was doing.

"Just a broken guy," a voice said on the cockpit voice recorder. "Got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew it until now."

Russell flew the plane for more than an hour before dying in a fiery crash.

"This is a complete shock to us," family friend Mike Matthew said. "We are devastated by these events."

Some in the aviation industry are concerned the incident might have revealed a dangerous flaw in security procedures.

"We're fortunate in the sense that it wasn't a terrorist, someone focused on causing mass destruction," former TSA administrator John Pistole said. "What this incident did was demonstrate a venerability that is still existing here almost 17 years after 9/11."

Thousands of ramp workers and mechanics have the same access as Russell.

"There might need to be a procedure in place where if you're not a pilot, you're not allowed on the plane unless there is someone there responsible for the aircraft," airline security expert Jeff Price said.

Airports across the country are now considering the possibility of an insider attack.

Federal investigators have recovered the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder. They hope that information will help offer new insight into why Russell took the plane.

About the Authors: