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An American airline worker recently stole a plane from Seattle airport and took off from the airport with it. He proceeded to fly the plane for roughly one and a half hours before crashing on an island close to Seattle. It still remains unclear as to why he stole the plane but speculation has suggested that he was suffering from some sort of mental illness. The local Sheriff’s office described the man, Richard Russell, as being suicidal.

Richard Russell was a member of the Horizon Air ground staff at Seattle Tacoma airport. According to investigators he had no pilots license or previous flight experience and it is still unclear how he managed to operate the plane. He told air traffic control, after taking off, that he didn’t need help flying because he said that he had “played some video games before”. He stole the plane after finishing work on August 10.

Russell flew the plane for 90 minutes and was in contact with air traffic control during most of that time. Air traffic control tried unsuccessfully to have him land the plane at a military base. However, he was not confident in his ability to land the plane and told the controller that he did not want to hurt anybody by crashing the plane while attempting a landing.

While talking to air traffic control Russell described himself as being a “man in crisis” and said he was a “broken guy, got a few screws loose I guess. Never really knew it until now.” Russell was regularly making jokes and chatting with the air traffic controller while flying the plane. He also pulled off some stunts such as a barrel roll in the plane. One veteran pilot said he was lucky not to rip the wings off the plane with the manoeuvres that he executed.

Air traffic control repeatedly tried to convince Russell to land the plane but he consistently declined. At one point, after being asked to try and land the plane, he said “I don’t know. I don’t want to. I was kind of hoping that was gonna be it, you know?” He also said that he “wasn’t really planning on landing it.”

Despite the best attempts from air traffic control and the F15 planes following Russell he crashed the plane around 90 minutes after taking off. He crashed the plane on a relatively deserted island south of the airport. He died in the crash but nobody else was injured or killed in the incident.

Difficult words

Proceed: To begin an action.

Speculation: To examine all possibilities, try to guess.

Suicidal: Thinking about taking one’s own life.

Crisis: A time of difficulty or danger.

Pull Off: To successfully complete something.

Barrel Roll: To make a plane go upside down and up again.

Manoeuvres: Moves requiring skill or care.

Execute: To complete, do or start.

Deserted: To be empty, with no people or left behind.

Activities

For listening practise, listen to the recorded article here:

British English: 

American English: Coming Soon!

Match the Synonym!

1. Proceed A. Guess
2. Speculation B. Problem
3. Suicidal C. Moves
4. Crisis D. Spin
5. Pull Off E.  Begin
6. Barrel Roll F. To do
7. Manoeuvres G. Not want to live
8. Execute H. Empty
9. Deserted I.  Succeed

True or False?

1.  An American traveler stole a plane from an airport. T / F

2.  The man flew the plane for more than an hour. T / F

3. This man definitely did not have any mental problems.  T / F

4.  The man said he had never played video games before. T / F

5. Air traffic control tried to convince the man to land the plane. T / F

6.  The man wanted to hurt people.  T / F

7. The man successfully did a barrel roll. T / F

8.  It was always the man’s plan to land the plane. T / F

9. The island where the plane crashed did not have many people. T / F

10.  The man survived the crash. T / F

Unscramble the sentence!

1. a / An / American / worker / plane / recently / stole / airline

2. hour / fly / one / the / roughly / for / proceeded / to / He / plane

3. he / license / pilots / had / no / to / investigators / According

4. have / him / unsuccessfully / traffic / to / Air / control / tried / land

5. the / He / deserted / island / relatively / crashed / a / plane / on

Listening and Vocabulary

Listen to the article and fill in the words OR practice vocabulary and fill in the words.

British English: 

American English: Coming Soon!

Declined Managed Chatting
Experience Illness  Recently
Deserted Attempting  Crashed

An American airline worker ______________ stole a plane from Seattle airport and took off from the airport with it. He proceeded to fly the plane for roughly 1 hour before crashing on an island close to Seattle. It still remains unclear as to why he stole the plane but speculation has suggested that he was suffering from some sort of mental ____________. The local Sheriff’s office described the man, Richard Russell, as being suicidal.

Richard Russell was a member of the Horizon Air ground staff at Seattle Tacoma airport. According to investigators he had no pilots license or previous flight _________ and it is still unclear how he ____________ to operate the plane. He told air traffic control, after taking off, that he didn’t need help flying because he said that he had “played some video games before”. He stole the plane after finishing work on August 10.

Russell flew the plane for 90 minutes and was in contact with air traffic control during most of that time. Air traffic control tried unsuccessfully to have him land the plane at a military base. However, he was not confident in his ability to land the plane and told the controller that he did not want to hurt anybody by crashing the plane while ___________ a landing.

While talking to air traffic control Russell described himself as being a “man in crisis” and said he was a “broken guy, got a few screws loose I guess. Never really knew it until now.” Russell was regularly making jokes and ___________ with the air traffic controller while flying the plane. He also pulled off some stunts such as a barrel roll in the plane. One veteran pilot said he was lucky not to rip the wings off the plane with the manoeuvres that he executed.

Air traffic control repeatedly tried to convince Russell to land the plane but he consistently ___________. At one point, after being asked to try and land the plane, he said “I don’t know. I don’t want to. I was kind of hoping that was gonna be it, you know?” He also said that he “wasn’t really planning on landing it.”

Despite the best attempts from air traffic control and the F15 planes following Russell he crashed the plane around 90 minutes after taking off. He __________ the plane on a relatively ___________ island south of the airport. He died in the crash but nobody else was injured or killed in the incident.

Conversation Questions

Take turns speaking with a partner or try to answer on your own:

1. Did you find this article interesting? Why or why not?
2. Did you learn anything new from this article? If so, what?
3. What do you think about this story?
4. Is airport security strong in your country?
5. Do you think video games can teach people how to do things in the real world?
6. Have there been any airport related terrorist attacks in your country?
7. Do you think mental health is as important as physical health?
8. Does your country provide support for mental health issues?
9. Do you think this man was suffering from a mental health problem?
10. Is mental health a problem in your country?
11. What are the biggest risks to mental health?
12. Do you do anything to improve or maintain your mental health?
13. Does work influence happiness?
14. What do you think someone should do if they are unhappy with their job?
15. Could anything have been done to stop him from stealing the plane?
16. Do you think anything different could have been done to save the man?
17. If he had lived, what do you think his punishment should be for stealing a plane?
18. How is depression treated in your country?
19. What can be done to help people with depression?
20. How should the air traffic controller be supported after experiencing this?