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Federal Regulators Considering Changes To Tarmac Security After Sea-Tac Incident


I'm Mary Louise Kelly with the fallout from an airport security breach on Friday. A man stole and crashed an empty commercial airliner from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The Northwest News Network's Tom Banse has more.

TOM BANSE, BYLINE: The questions airline industry leaders are asking themselves revolve around what more they can do to stop a rogue insider like the baggage handler behind Friday's plane theft.


COURTNEY GREGOIRE: We've gotten information that all security protocols were handled appropriately here at the airport.

BANSE: Courtney Gregoire presides over the Port of Seattle Commission which operates Sea-Tac Airport. She says she expects a national conversation about possible operational changes and human factors.


GREGOIRE: I think this is really truly one in a million experience. That doesn't mean we can't learn from it and ensure this type of tragedy doesn't happening again.

BANSE: Gregoire did not name any concrete changes under consideration when she briefed reporters in the terminal this morning. What we know so far is that the Horizon Air ramp worker passed a federal background check when he was hired - that according to Horizon's CEO, who also said the uniformed 29-year-old had the proper credentials to be around the parked plane he stole.

Late yesterday, the FBI announced the flight data recorder and components of the cockpit voice recorder have been recovered from the plane crash scene on a forested island in Puget Sound. Those flight recorders could offer the best chance of learning whether airplane thief Richard Russell deliberately crashed onto Ketron Island or lost control. Russell sounded at times giddy and at times apologetic when he talked with air traffic controllers.


RICHARD RUSSELL: I got a lot of people that care about me, and it's going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them.

BANSE: Several airline industry insiders debating the incident on Twitter this weekend said the crash reckoning should focus on mental health. That would make the aftermath similar to the debate after a Germanwings co-pilot crashed his loaded plane into a French mountainside in 2015. For NPR News, I'm Tom Banse. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Banse covers business, environment, public policy, human interest and national news across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be heard during "Morning Edition," "Weekday," and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.