A very peculiar event happened a few days ago, on
August the 10th 2018, in which an
aircraft was stolen. It was not a hijack; the Horizon Air Bombardier Dash 8 Q400
airliner was parked and empty. It was at
International Airport .
Suddenly its engines started; it rolled out to the runway and took to the air. Air
traffic control made radio contact with the aircraft while the US Air Force
scrambled two F15 fighter jets to intercept it, fearing that this was the prelude
to a terrorist attack. The person who had stolen it was actually a member of
staff at the airport, a ground service controller called Richard Russell. He
had boarded the unattended aircraft and flown it out of the airport, even
though he had no pilot qualifications or training. He told the air traffic
controllers that he had learned all about aviation from playing flight
simulation computer games. His manner was affable and devoid of anger. He cracks many jokes. He even apologized
to the ATC crew and said: "I hope this doesn't ruin your day." He
cooperated with them in a gentlemanly manner as they directed him away from the
airways surrounding the airport so that he didn't risk colliding with other
aircraft taking off or landing. He even sounded jovial. He was clearly enjoying
his experience and announced his intention to fly to the Washington State USA Olympic
Mountains and view them from the air. He took his stolen charge
out to sea over the Puget Sound, a network of river
estuaries, inlets and islands on the north-western US Pacific coast, and
performed a series of aerobatics; looping, diving and swooping low over the water.
He carefully avoided built-up areas. Local people filmed him from nearby
shores. He stated how he felt regret that his loved ones will be distressed and
that he had "a few screws loose", but never knew it until that
moment. He also told the controllers that he had not thought about landing and
he declined ATC's attempts to guide him to an airport. His flight ended an hour
after he took off when the aircraft crashed into a wooded and sparsely
inhabited island called .
Source: https://globalnews.ca/video/4383115/man-who-stole-plane-was-richard-russell. Ketron Island
From the pictures released of the crash site and the location, a semi-inhabited small island, it is clear that the flight ended in a nosedive and the pilot was careful not to harm anybody else during his suicide. There was indeed only one fatality, Richard Russell himself. He was described as a quiet and popular member of staff and his colleagues called him "Rich" or "Beebo". The public reaction to his death has been extraordinary. I have not seen such mass grieving since the death of Stephen Hawking. Russell has been christened "the Sky King" and numerous affectionate memes have emerged online. Some musicians have already composed tribute songs, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yALA9T-Rey0. He has become a true folk hero. Why has this incident touched so many hearts? It's impossible to know what Richard Russell's true motives were. There's no evidence at the moment that he plotted in advance to steal the aircraft. It looks like a spontaneous and opportunist action. It is also obvious that he meant no harm to anybody but himself. He was careful not to threaten populated areas and kept his antics well out to sea. He sounds like a sensitive man. At one point he asked ATC to guide him to the location of another news story where a female killer whale had carried her dead calf for seventeen days, see: https://www.express.co.uk/news/nature/1002873/killer-whale-goodbye-dead-calf-mother-grief. When I read a news story like that it's easy to understand why somebody might also read it and give up on the idea of living at all. Maybe it was the very nondescript nature of his life that killed him. A lot of his mourners have projected that onto his identify whether it is correct or not. For them, his action is a hymn to the human spirit. Did Richard Russell sacrifice the rest of his life for just a few moments of genuine excitement, ecstasy and meaning? Why is it that life in our society is so devoid of those things? Why has the normal, the everyday, the eternal sameness become the only objective that anybody is allowed to strive for? Society gives us such a small, pointless, constricted and uniform existence and we're told that there is no way out; from cradle to grave, that is our one and only destiny we can expect. This is the difference between humanity and the machine. Whether it truly applies to the Sky King or not, so many of his fans understand this and feel it with him. One of the most poignant comments I've seen made about Richard Russell is: "Some say he went up there to die, but we know he went up there finally to live." This shows that the human spirit is not yet dead. It can still break the chains of ordinariness and be free. Fly in peace, Sky King.