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Fighter pilots made 'brief' contact with man who stole plane from Sea-Tac Airport

After honoring those involved in the response to the stolen plane out of Sea-Tac earlier this month, a colonel in the Oregon Air National Guard confirmed that the fighter pilots made contact with Richard Russell.

He didn’t get into too many specifics, but Colonel Adam Sitler confirmed that fighter pilots made contact with the man who stole a Horizon Air plane from Sea-Tac Airport before it crashed.

Col. Sitler said what happened on Aug. 10 is an example of how the pilots from the 142nd Fighter Squadron of the Oregon Air National Guard are ready for any situation.

PHOTOS: The site of the deadly crash

On Thursday, after honoring those involved in the response, Col. Sitler said fighter pilots did establish communication with Richard Russell as he flew the stolen Q400 Horizon Air plane. They were able to make “brief communication,” he said.

Though he wouldn’t say exactly what the fighter pilots were attempting to do as Russell flew the plane, he said, in general, pilots will attempt to establish communication in that kind of situation. That information is relayed back to command before any action is taken.

Two F-15C fighter jets flew at supersonic speeds from Portland to the vicinity of McChord Air Force base that day, according to information from the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The NORAD fighters were working to redirect the aircraft out over the Pacific Ocean. Instead, Russell, a 28-year-old employee of Horizon Air, crashed the on Ketron Island in Pierce County.

Audio between air traffic control and Russell indicated the man to potentially be in emotional crisis.

At one point, air traffic control can be heard saying that Russell was “just flying around,” and “just needs some help controlling his aircraft.”

Russell was killed in the crash. Nobody else was injured.

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