Richard Russell Horizon Air Q400 HiJack and Microsoft Flight Simulator

Q400 Microsoft Flight Simlulator Seattle Hijack Richard Russell

(Image Credit Denis Kabelev / Shutterstock)


Richard Russell stole a Horizon Air Q400 from SeaTac airport. What looked like a joyride seemed to transition into a deathwish as the aircraft crashed on Ketron Island in Southern Puget Sound.

As reported in the press, everyone is asking how he could have done this? He is not a pilot, where did he learn to start up and fly this aircraft? I can probably come up with a pretty good possibility how he would have known to pull this off.

While Richard was speaking to the air traffic controllers he stated, “I’ve played video games before so I know what I’m doing a little bit.” I don’t think we are talking just any video game. It is my opinion the investigators will find out he spent many hours, maybe years, using any number of flight simulator programs, including but not limited to Microsoft Flight Simulator X.

MS Flight Simulator is as close as anybody can get to flying a plane without leaving the ground. There is even a flight ground school program built into the software. And in fact at one time, I believe the FAA allowed up to 10 hours of recorded flight sim experience toward their licensing requirements.

The Majestic Software Q400 is one of the aircraft that you can upload into the game. And in fact the following video even shows how to start up the Q400. Advance to 4:08 into the video to learn how to start a Q400.

Here is a short video of a takeoff and short flight of the Q400

MS Flight Simulator allows you to choose your aircraft, your airport and your staging spot. After learning how to start up and fly the aircraft in simulator program, he could have literally moved the sim aircraft to the exact place he started it up, taxi out to the runway, taken off and flown the same routes he flew Friday night.

I am speaking from experience. I have many hours invested over the past 15 years with MS Flight simulator. I have even been given the opportunity to take second seat in many of the aircraft I flew with the simulator. I know for a fact I could start up a 737 and take off. I know I could take over the controls and land it in an emergency. It’s that accurate.

Most commercial aircraft do not require a key to start. Maybe the solution is a key or an electronic card or chip based technology only available to the pilots which would unlock the initial start up procedures of commercial aircraft. And no, you cannot start up a Q400 with the flip of one switch. If you watch the video above you have to complete many tasks, in order, for the aircraft to even start.

Off subject but noteworthy, on one of my projects out at Edwards AFB, it was brought to my attention inmates from the former Boron Federal Prison Camp(FPC) would work out at the base each day. However if that inmate was a pilot, they were not allowed to take those positions and had to stay at the camp. Why do you think that was?

Yes, we need secure options in place to keep this from happening again. And yes, it is my opinion a games based flight simulator was instrumental in giving the wannabe pilot hijacker enough knowledge to take flight in a real aircraft.


Technology Tour in Alaska – Secure Data Centers

Ted Lancer Alaska

Awhile back I was asked to be part of a team conducting due diligence for proposed secure data centers just outside of Anchorage Alaska. These potential co-location facilities would be secure cost effective locations as just one part of tier 4 redundant data locations.


Alaska made sense because less power would be needed to supply a cool air environment. And in fact, while air “conditioning”, filtering systems would run all year, the AC compressors would only be needed to cool the air 10 months out of the year.

We toured the A,T&T ALASCOM data center in Anchorage before heading up to two separate mountain locations outside of Anchorage with the mission of building a doomsday data facility.


The first location was proposed within a closed military underground missile control site that was very active after the cold war. The second site would have been involved with opening up a closed mining site. One site would require more of an investment and another, more federal oversight. My team made their recommendation and a site was chosen at a third location I am not able to disclose at this time.

I have posted some photographs from trip below.



Securing classified information within government work spaces

Back before I was investigating classified proprietary materials theft, I was at one specific facility where the emphasis was on not leaving classified materials laying around work stations. The employee or contractor may think their project is safe just lying on a desk or up on the computer screen while they head to the restroom but statistics show many secrets have been stolen from materials left right out in the open.

The secure locations will host training classes, send out memos but they also used something as basic as cartoonish signs placed on desks, in cubicles and on walls throughout the facility like these signs I collected at one of my duty stations.

Top Secret Poster

Top Secret Frog

Top Secret Lion

These may seem goofy to use these types of displays in protecting America’s secrets but they worked.