'Suicidal' mechanic stole empty plane then crashed into island after F15 chase

Alaska Airlines planes are seen at Seattle Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac Wash. Oct. 30 2013

Alaska Airlines planes are seen at Seattle Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac Wash. Oct. 30 2013

The fighter planes intercepted the Q400 turboprop near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, NORAD said.

"Oh, man, those guys will rough me up if I try and land there", the man says.

The pilot - who is addressed as "Rich" in the recordings - says he's "got a lot of people that care about me" and that he was "just a broken guy".

"They said there was some kind of emergency somewhere on the runway, and after that we just sat there for 40 minutes", one told Reuters.

During the ordeal, the self-proclaimed pilot could be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he is "just a broken guy".

Richard Russell, 29, flew the plane for over an hour before it crashed on Ketron Island in south Puget Sound.

Video footage on social media showed a large plane flying above the Seattle area with a F-15 fighter jet following it. Terrorism was quickly ruled out as a motive, but the incident still led to a complete shutdown of air traffic in and out of Sea-Tac airport.

The airline tweeted out that they are "aware of an incident involving an unauthorized take-off of a Horizon Air Q400" turboprop plane, but "we believe there are no passengers on board". "We are giving those investigators our full support and cooperation", Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden said in a statement on August 11.

The plane was a Horizon Air Q400, according to a statement from Horizon's partner airline Alaska Airlines.

Sheriff Paul A. Pastor said at the press conference that there was no sign that it was a terrorist attack. "I would like to apologize to each and everyone one of them", said Russell.

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Ms Morse's mother, who lives closer to the area where the plane went down, said her whole house shook.

"There were some maneuvers that were done that were incredible maneuvers with the aircraft", Gary Beck, CEO of Horizon Air, said of the flight that ended with a crash onto a small island.

A "suicidal" airline employee at Seattle's Sea-Tac International Airport stole an empty plane Friday night for a freaky joyride, performing risky air maneuvers under close pursuit by F-15 fighter jets before crashing into an island.

The job of a ground service agent includes directing aircraft for takeoff and gate approach, handling baggage and tidying and de-icing planes, CNN quoted authorities as saying. The FBI is now investigating, while Alaska Air is cooperating with authorities and their own safety team to make sense of exactly what went down.

"I hope this doesn't ruin your day".

The family of an airline employee who stole a passenger plane before crashing it in Seattle has made a statement to U.S. media, describing Richard "Bebo" Russell as a "kind and gentle" man.

It was unclear where he got the skills to perform such manoeuvres, authorities said.

Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden said the man had been "background checked".

No passengers were on board and normal operations have resumed at the airfield, the airport said on Twitter.

Experts say the crash exposed alarming gaps in airport security, and is likely to prompt a major review industry security measures.

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