Video taken by a bystander showed the 76-seat plane making a big, slow loop-the-loop as F-15 fighter jets gave chase, then flying low over Puget Sound before crashing into Ketron Island, a sparsely-populated area in the northwestern U.S. state of Washington.
"There is a runway just off to your right side in about a mile", the controller says, reffering to an airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. At another point he apologized to everyone who cared about him and described himself as, "just a broken guy, got a few screws loose I guess - never really knew it until now". "It's going to disappoint them to hear that I did this". The man told air traffic controllers that he was a "broken guy" but also joked about whether the airline would hire him as a pilot if he landed safely.
The plane was trailed by F15 fighter jets, and it eventually crashed on sparsely populated Ketron Island in Puget Sound.
Russell flew for about an hour, talking periodically with air traffic controllers and making turns and even some aerobatic maneuvers as two armed F-15 jets followed him, officials said.
Russell was the only person aboard, and did not survive, the Pierce County Sheriff's Department said.
There was no indication that the incident was an act of terror, the Pierce County Sheriff's Department said on Twitter.
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The plane was a Horizon Air Q400, according to a statement from Horizon's partner airline Alaska Airlines.
Sheriff Paul Pastor said during a news conference in Steilacoom.that the pilot was "probably deceased".
They called a second alarm, Adams said, to get more crews out to the island.
Ms Morse's mother, who lives closer to the area where the plane went down, said her whole house shook.
"Our hearts are with the family of the individual aboard, along with all of our Alaska Air and Horizon Air employees", Horizon Air Chief Operating Officer Constance von Muehlen said in a video posted on Twitter.
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Authorities say Richard Russell stole a Horizon Q400 aircraft and took it to the air later resulting in the loss of his life following a crash into an island. No one outside the plane was injured, officials said. A Facebook page appearing to belong to the man said he was from Wasilla, Alaska, and lived in Sumner, Washington, and was married in 2012.
He had no objective to be at that plane Friday evening "other than. what he did do", Tilden said.
Gary Beck, President and CEO of Horizon Air, said in a statement the plane crashed "about an hour" after it left Sea-Tac airport.
"Safety is our number one goal", Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden said.
"Hey pilot guy can this thing do a backflip you think?" said Russell to the control tower.
"Dozens of personnel were out at the crash site, and co-workers and family members were being interviewed", he said.
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