The Horizon Air worker, who had stolen and taken a plane from Seattle Airport, deliberately crashed to commit suicide, the FBI said in a report stating that he had no obvious links to terrorism.
Ground Services Officer Richard Russell, 28, acted alone and no costs were planned in the August incident, the agency said in a statement released Friday. Investigators found no explanation why Russell, who was not a licensed pilot, wanted to steal the empty plane and kill himself.
"Interviews with work colleagues, friends, and family members – and the review of text messages exchanged with Russell during the incident – did not reveal any information that suggests that the theft of the aircraft is related to more extensive criminal activity or terrorist ideology," said the FBI. "Although the investigators received information about Russell's background, possible stressors, and personal life, no element was a clear motivation for Russell's behavior."
Similarly, a Transportation Safety Administration investigation revealed that Horizon or Seattle-Tacoma International Airport did not detect any security breaches, the agency said in a statement released Friday. Horizon is owned by Alaska Air Group Inc.
The TSA found that the airline and the airport "comply with all safety requirements," he said.
The Aviation Safety Agency said it is looking for ways to "strengthen safety in all aspects of the airport environment."
"This incident was a very difficult moment for us and many others," Horizon Air Chairman and CEO Gary Beck said in a statement. "We remain grateful to all who have supported our employees, the deceased employee's family and the affected communities."
The US Department of Transportation has analyzed the data from the flight and reviewed a cockpit record of the aircraft's two crash-proof black boxes, the FBI said.
Russell spoke intensely with the air traffic controllers after the unauthorized departure. He was "just a broken guy," he once said as a controller tried to convince him to land the plane. "I have a lot of people looking after me and it will disappoint them to hear that I did that."
Skills to pilot
The Port of Seattle, which operates the airport, is also reviewing the incident with TSA and an industry working group to determine if additional action is needed. He examines new technologies, security measures and "well-being and health of employees", it says in a statement.
The plane, a Bombardier Inc. Q400 turboprop, had partially slipped sideways during its recent dive, the FBI said. This suggests that Russell did not have sophisticated piloting skills.
Nevertheless, "the aircraft seems to have retained control, and the final descent to the ground seems intentional," the FBI said. "If the pilot wanted to avoid the impact on the ground, he had time and energy to pull back the column, lift his nose, and start an ascent."
According to TSA and the FBI, Russell had legitimate evidence as a Horizon employee to gain access to the plane. As part of his regular duties, he was familiar with turning on a small turbine engine aboard the aircraft, which was used to power and start the main engines. He also knew how to maneuver the plane on the ground, according to the FBI.
Although there was no evidence that Russell had received official flight training, he searched the Internet for flight instruction videos, the FBI said.
Russell arrived at work on the 10th of August at 2:36 pm. He entered the plane at 19:19. and started the engines within minutes. He left the plane briefly and used a towing vehicle to turn the nose of the aircraft towards the runways leading to the runways. At 19:32, the plane began to move, the FBI said.
The plane flew 1 hour and 13 minutes before it crashed on the sparsely populated island of Ketron Island in Puget Sound, about 40 kilometers from the airport.