Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Flight of Richard Russell

Richard Russell's last day was a culmination of unmet desires.

The aviation world is the hub of activity at the pinnacle of society. Russell lived near the bottom of that culture. He was not a pilot. He was not a mechanic. He was a baggage handler. At 29 years old, to be useful for nothing more than manual labor in a high-end economy is not an encouraging place to be.

He mentioned the minimum wage. Just this year Seattle's minimum wage went up to $15 per hour. The higher the minimum wage goes, the closer everyone is to what society calls the bottom. The further down the income range one is, the more acutely this denigration is felt.

He had played some video games, and given his ability to get a real airliner off the ground and “do a couple maneuvers” in the air, he may have also had practice with flight simulator software. His mentions of regurgitation and being light-headed show there is more to real flying than he expected.

He told flight controllers, “I hope this doesn't ruin your day” and he was glad they were working to make sure he wasn't “screwing up everyone else's day on account of me.”

A good day is when everyone comes out alive, and Richard did not, so Friday was not a good day for the flight controllers. The travel plans of many others were disrupted, but their day did not end as badly as Richard's.

Russell: “D-----, Andrew: People's lives are at stake here.”
FAA: “Now, Rich, don't, don't say stuff like that.”
Russell: “Nah, I told you, I'm not— I don't want to hurt no one. I just want you to whisper sweet nothings into my ear,” his voice with a tremor.
Was there love in his life? He mentioned people he would be disappointing, but one wonders.

He had not found recent news encouraging:
Russell: “Hey, you think if I land this successfully Alaska would give me a job as a pilot?”
FAA: “Uh, you know I think they'd give you a job doing anything if you could pull this off.”
Russell: “Yeah right. Nah, I'm a white guy, they'd…”
The constant racial overtones in our culture are not helpful.
Russell: “Hey, I want the coordinates of that orca, with the—you know the mama orca with the baby? I wanna go see that guy.”
Mothers are not guys, so did he say he wants to see the calf—that's dead?

He saw alternate opportunities slip away:
Russell: “<singing>…back against the water.</singing> Hey what's the—what's that airport right there behind me, like to my left?”
The audio ends with a question about something he raised at the beginning:
Russell: “Hey, is that pilot on? I want to know what the weather's going to be like in the Olympics?”
Mountains are generally higher than life on the ground at an airport.

Seattle August 10, 2018 plane incident: AudioPartial Transcript
The Briefing: Questions remain after tragic human drama plays out in the air over Seattle

None of this is an excuse for theft and murdering himself. We all face difficulties, and airports have employed thousands of people every day for years.

My point is, Richard Russell's greatest need on Friday was not to make more money, have a better job, be a pilot, find love, vacation in the mountains, or even to land safely. Those are concerns with this life. His greatest need was for hope. He needed a Savior. That's a matter of his eternity.

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