(The task is accomplished by a pair of workers, one in the tow rig, the other in the cockpit riding the brakes.) But a pilot would later tell investigators that he’d twice encountered Russell acting “suspicious” inside his planes. Joel Monteith, in a call to authorities obtained by the Seattle Times, identified himself as a pilot for SkyWest Airlines, whose jets were serviced by Horizon ground crew at SeaTac.
BEEBO’S LAST FLIGHT: After completing a barrel roll, Russell crashed into Ketron Island in Puget Sound, just off the shore between Olympia and Tacoma.
Monteith described one troubling encounter with Russell, who’d wanted to observe his preflight “flows,” the startup sequence for the aircraft. ” He speculated that Russell’s exploit wasn’t “a plot this dude just came up with, like, overnight,” suggesting, “This guy had been thinking about doing this for a long time, and . . . the Q400 that he took was just an airplane of opportunity.”
Russell also kept a Pinterest profile, where he went by the handle “Beebro” and collected memes, including several from the satirical site Despair. In , days before his unauthorized departure, Russell pinned an image to a board called “Dank memes.” It was a Photoshop of a chubby kid with brown hair dressed up as Sonic the Hedgehog, with a sad, distant look in his eyes. It’s not a spitting image, but it’s hard not to see Russell in the child’s face. “No matter how fast I run . . .” the text reads, “I cannot run away from the pain.”
As the clock ticked toward 8 p.m. local time, the gravity of what Russell had set in motion began to settle in – including the likelihood of a military response. He asked if the directions from the controller were “taking me to the jets?” The controller reassured him: “No, I’m not taking you to any jets. I’m actually keeping you away from aircraft that are trying to land at SeaTac http://cps-static.rovicorp.com/3/JPG_400/MI0003/549/MI0003549188.jpg?partner=allrovi.com” alt=””>.” Russell was instantly apologetic: “Oh, OK. “I’m glad you’re not, you know, screwing up everyone else’s day on account of me.”
The controller advised Russell to begin planning his landing. This was a daunting suggestion. The Q400 is designed to climb sharply out of small airports; its engines are high-powered when the plane is full and even more powerful when empty. Pilots jokingly refer to it as the “Crash 8” because of how difficult it is to land.
“There is the runway just off your right side in about a mile, do you see that? That’s McChord Field,” the controller said. Joint Base Lewis-McChord is a massive Army and Air Force installation south of Tacoma. Russell distrusted that suggestion. “Oh, man, those guys would rough me up if I tried landing there. I think I might mess something up there too. I wouldn’t want to do that,” he said, before practically shouting with paranoia: “Oh, they’ve probably got anti-aircraft!”
“No, they don’t have any of that stuff,” the controller responded. “We’re just trying to find a place for you to land safely.”
“Yeah, not quite ready to bring it down just yet,” Russell responded, “but holy smokes, I got to stop looking at the fuel ’cause it’s going down quick.” Then, for a moment, Russell began to imagine the consequences he would presumably face if he managed to touch down: “This is probably like jail time for life, huh? I mean, I would hope it is for a guy like me.”