The airline employee who hijacked an empty Horizon Air turboprop plane from Seattle’s international airport and crashed it on a nearby island had security clearance and was on his shift, airline officials say.

The 29-year-old man, identified by the US media as Richard Russell, had worked for Horizon Air for more than three years, towing and tidying aircraft and loading bags.

Russell used a machine called a pushback tractor to manoeuvre the 76-seater Q400 Bombardier airplane so he could board and then take off from Sea-Tac International Airport on Friday evening.

This undated selfie picture available on social media on August 11, 2018 shows Richard B Russell, a ground service agent at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. (Photo via AFP)


Plane took off without permission.

The flight, which lasted for almost an hour, forced authorities to ground all flights at the airport while traffic control tried to persuade the man to land the plane. A number of F-15 fighter jets were scrambled out of nearby Portland, Oregon, to chase the aircraft.

After making “incredible manoeuvres,” the hijacker crashed the plane and was killed near a military facility on Ketron Island, a sparsely populated area in Puget Sound.


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