Authorities don't believe man who stole plane had a pilot's license

SEATAC, Wash. — The man who stole an empty Horizon Air turboprop plane from Sea-Tac International Airport in Seattle and flew it for nearly an hour is not believed to have a pilot’s license, authorities said Saturday. Sources familiar with the investigation have confirmed the man’s name is Richard Russell.

“There were some maneuvers done that were incredible. To our knowledge, he didn’t have a pilot’s license,” Horizon CEO Gary Beck said at a news conference. 

It is unclear how the 29-year-old attained the skills to do loops in the aircraft before crashing into a small island in the Puget Sound on Friday, authorities said.

“To be honest with you, commercial aircraft are complex machines. They’re not as easy to fly as say a Cessna 150. I don’t know how he achieved the experience that he did,” Beck said.

Other details about the man, who authorities have not publicly named, were emerging on Saturday. But a lot of questions remained unasnwered. 

Authorities said the man was a 3.5-year Horizon employee, had clearance to be among aircraft, and was a Horizon Air ground service agent. He used a machine called a pushback tractor to first maneuver the aircraft so he could board and then take off Friday evening. 

He went through various background checks to get clearance to be in the secured area, authorities said. 

This story will be updated. 

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