The man who stole a plane said he didn’t need much help: ‘I’ve played some video games’
(CNN) Before he crashed and died, the airline worker who authorities said stole and flew a passenger plane in the Seattle area Friday had a wide-ranging discussion with air traffic control — at one point expressing confidence in his flying ability because “I’ve played some video games.”
In audio recordings posted on Broadcastify, the man can be heard both resisting and seeking help as a controller and others tried to guide the otherwise unoccupied Horizon Air plane to a landing.
The man has been identified as Richard Russell, a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation confirmed to CNN on Saturday night.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department described the man as suicidal but did not elaborate. At times Russell was apologetic, expressed his desire to fly toward the nearby Olympic Mountains, worried about lightheadedness and expressed shock at his fuel level’s rapid decrease.
Here are portions of Friday evening’s recordings in the order they occurred. The conversations took place before the 76-seat, twin-engine turboprop plane crashed on Ketron Island, about 25 miles southwest of where he took off at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, also known as Sea-Tac:
‘I have no idea what all that means’
Early in the flight, a controller apparently is giving instructions to Russel while he flies the plane.
Russell: “Yeah, that’s all mumbo ju… — I have no idea what all that means. I wouldn’t know how to punch it in. I’m off autopilot.”
Keeping away from other aircraft
Russell wonders aloud whether a controller is trying to direct the plane toward “jets.”
Controller: “No, I’m not taking you to any jets. I’m actually keeping you away from aircraft that are trying to land at Sea-Tac.”
Russell: “Oh, OK, yeah, yeah, I don’t want to want to screw with that. I’m glad you’re not … screwing up everyone else’s day on account of me.”
How much fuel?
Russell starts commenting on fuel.
Russell: “I’m down to 2,100. I started at like 30-something.”
Controller: “You said you had 2,100 pounds of fuel left?”
Russell: “Yeah, I don’t know what the burn … burnout is like on takeoff, but yeah, it’s burned quite a bit faster than I expected.”