How Did One Man Steal a Plane in Seattle Despite Security Checks?
Wired takes look at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport incident that led to fatal crash.
The headlines were jarring enough: An airport employee at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport stole a large Alaska Air turboprop airplane and took it for an unauthorized flight before crashing the otherwise empty 76-seater on a small island. Only the man behind the controls, later identified by authorities as Richard Russell, was killed, but the potential for catastrophic loss of life on the ground led to other flights being grounded and F-15 fighter jets scrambling.
But even as federal authorities begin their larger investigation, Wired took a look at just how Russell was able to get on the plane itself, despite apparently not even working for the airline. Douglas M. Moss, a former pilot who now runs AeroPacific Consulting, told the magazine that the process of starting a plane up to get it moving is extremely complicated, especially for someone who is not a professional pilot of those type of large planes.
“For a generic employee to even know how to start the engines, that’s a task in and of itself,” says Moss. And he added that it is complicated to know how to retract the steps and landing gear, to move the plane to the right runway, and to take off. Based on the footage of the flight, which shows the plane making loops and a barrel roll, it seems Russell had some pilot training.
There is some good news to come out of the tragedy: It would be much more difficult to hijack a plane in a similar manner if it was full of passengers. FAA rules demand that the flight crew and cabin crew are onboard the plane before the passengers board.
A potential solution might be to use technology to lock the plane when it is not in service., Alan Stolzer, a safety expert at the College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, told Wired.
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