Rich Russell, who also went by the name Beebo Russell, was named as the man who stole and crashed an airplane from Sea-Tac International Airport, taking it on an unauthorized, doomed flight.
Richard Russell shared a YouTube video that described his job as a baggage handler and his love of travel. It’s now a moving tribute to the man who has become something of an instant social media legend for his airborne maneuvers with the stolen plane. You can watch the video here:
In the video, Rich Russell, who was married and grew up in Wasilla, Alaska, showcased an active life full of travel and adventure. The video starts with images of what it’s like to work as a baggage handler for an airline, sometimes in the rainy weather. “Hi…I’m a ground service agent. That means I lift a lot of bags… so many bags,” he says. “I usually have to work outside…but it allows me to do some pretty cool things too.”
On YouTube, he went by the name Beebo Russell.
Then, it segues into a montage of photos from Russell’s trips to Alaska, France, Ireland, and other places before ending with a scene from a family gathering.
On social media, Richard Russell quickly became something of a folk hero, but people also felt sadness and empathy for his pain and his plight. “I hope this prompts a nationwide discussion about mental healthcare overall. 💔” wrote one woman on Twitter, echoing the comments of many people who heard it.
Live aviation audio from the tower said, at one point, that dispatchers were urging Rich Russell to try “to land that airplane safely and not hurt anybody” while dealing with a snarl of stalled planes on the ground. Other audio reported a ground stop was underway at SeaTac, the airport that services Seattle and Tacoma, Washington. Patch confirmed there was a “security incident” underway at SeaTac.
At one point in the dramatic audio, Richard Russell told the tower he was losing an engine. Periodically, his voice cut into the dispatches. At one point, Russell said on the aviation audio, “This is probably jail time for life, huh? I would hope it is for a guy like me.” People on Twitter who were following the aviation audio reported that the man attempted a “barrel roll” with the plane at one point – or at least claimed he was going to do so. Others reported that the man had supposedly “buzzed” Mt. Rainier.
Russell said to dispatchers at one point, “You think if I can land this successfully, Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?” and the Air Traffic Control tower said, “I think they will give you a job doing anything if you pull this off.” He replied, “yeahhh right. Nah, I’m a white guy.”
“There is the runway just about a mile off your right side, do you see that? That’s McCord field,” the controller tells Richard Russell.
“Aw man, those guys would rough me up if I tried landing there,” Rich says. “I think I might mess something up there too. I wouldn’t want to do that. Oh- they’ve probably got anti-aircraft…not quite ready to bring it down just yet. Holy smokes, I’ve got to stop looking at the fuel because it’s going down quick.”
Rich Russell Dreamed of Being in the Military & Ran a Bakery
Rich Russell dreamed of being in the military and once ran a bakery with his wife.
The man known as “Rich” in air traffic control audio and dubbed the “skyking” on Twitter broke hearts on social media as people followed the unauthorized flight because it came to a fatal end. The incident led to a dramatic and tragic night on August 10, 2018, as aircraft were grounded at Sea-Tac while fighter jets followed the man, although NORAD says they didn’t shoot the plane down.
Although authorities have not released his name, The Seattle Times identified the man as Richard Russell.
On Facebook, Rich, who again used the name Beebo Russell, wrote that he lives in Sumner, Washington, was from Wasilla, Alaska, and was married to Hannah Russell, who works as an assistant pastry chef and waitress, according to her social media account.
Richard Russell had a website that appears to have been for a college communications class.
“Hey all! My names Richard Russell, I’m 27 and currently living in Sumner, WA with my incredible wife Hannah. I was born in Key West, Florida, and moved to Wasilla, Alaska when I was 7. I met Hannah in Coos Bay, Oregon in 2010 while we were both going to school,” the about me section says.
A friend wrote on Facebook, “So heart broken…he was such a kind person to me. He would take my shifts if I needed. Never knew he was fighting a battle non of us knew about. He was always smiling.”
A 2012 article in the World described how Russell met his wife. “Hannah and Beebo met at a Campus Crusade for Christ gathering at Southwestern Oregon Community College last year,” the site reported.
“Our first date, he kind of cornered me into it,” Hannah Russell said to the site. “I was dead set against it.” Their business contained a sign that read, “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt.” In the article, Russell described himself as laid back and easy going.
On Facebook, his favorite quotes were religious in nature, including, “God IS Love” and “No Guilt in Life, No Fear in Death, this is the Power of Christ in Me,” and a non religious line, “This is America.”
Audio captured emotional conversations between the man, named as “Rich,” and air traffic controllers trying to help him land safely.
“Damnit Andrew, people’s lives are at stake here,” Rich said at one point in the audio, which you can listen to later in this article.
“Ah, Rich, don’t say stuff like that,” the controller said.
“I don’t want to hurt no one. I just want you to whisper sweet nothings into my ear,” said Rich, who claimed he could fly the plane because he played video games.
Sea-Tac airport confirmed the plane was down a short time later. “An airline employee conducted an unauthorized takeoff without passengers at Sea-Tac; aircraft has crashed in south Puget Sound. Normal operations at Sea-Tac Airport have resumed,” the airport wrote.
The audio between the man known as “Rich” and air traffic controllers further captured his demeanor. “I’ve got a lot of people that care about me. I’m going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose I guess. Never really knew it, until now,” Rich Russell said.