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Thousands of Sea-Tac employees have clearance to access airplanes

The 28-year-old who stole a Horizon Air turboprop plane Friday had security clearance to be near the aircraft, according to Alaska Airline officials.
Credit: KING
Sea-Tac Airport

Thousands of employees at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport have security badges that grant them access to aircraft, like the Horizon Air turboprop plane a ground service agent stole and crashed on Friday.

Perry Cooper, the airport's public information officer, said that there are about 24,000 employees who have security badges during Sea-Tac Airport's busy summer season. Of those, about 13,600 employees have credentials to access airplanes.

Russell, a ground service agent who handled baggage and directed airplanes, was one of about 11,400 employees with credentials to access the "airport operations area." That includes the ramp, gate and cargo areas, in addition to several hangers.

The 28-year-old did not have security clearance to access runways and taxiways, according to Cooper, but he was permitted to be near the aircraft on the August 10 evening he stole it.

Also see | Horizon Air employee had security clearance, specialized training

"Even people who would have passed him or seen him in that time period would not have had an alert that something was wrong," Cooper said.

Sea-Tac Airport officials said they have temporarily beefed up security measures. They added more police and security staff in airport cargo areas, like the area where Russell stole the plane. Cooper declined to share how many additional police officers and security staff were assigned to those areas.

FULL VIDEO: FBI, Alaska Airlines news conference on stolen plane crash

Port of Seattle Commissioner Courtney Gregorie said Monday that the Port had yet to identify any lapses in security protocol.

More coverage of stolen plane crash:

- 'I was prepared to run': Witness recorded stolen plane doing loops

- How flight simulators may have aided man who stole plane

- Co-workers reveal moments leading up to Seattle plane theft

- Washington lawmakers call for hearing into Seattle plane theft

- LISTEN: Cockpit audio from worker who stole empty plane from Sea-Tac Airport

- Stolen plane wreckage hauled off Ketron Island

- Air traffic controller praised for efforts to help Seattle plane thief

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