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

Airliner takes off without authorization at Sea-Tac crashes in Puget Sound	 	 	 			A Horizon Q400 | Source Alaska Airlines

Pressed to land at Joint Base Lewis McChord, the pilot nervously joked about the fighter jets chasing his aircraft "They probably got anti-aircraft!"

"Oh man. Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there", Russell responded.

Later the man said: "I've got a lot of people that care about me".

In radio traffic, Russell told air traffic controllers he was a broken guy and had a few screws loose, and police described him as suicidal.

"The FBI continues to work with our state, local, and federal partners to gather a complete picture of what transpired with tonight's unauthorized Horizon aircraft takeoff and crash", the agency said.

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.

"This is not a terrorist incident", Ed Troyer of the Pierce County Sheriff's office wrote on Twitter.

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The FBI said it does not consider the incident terror-related but the theft of a commercial aircraft from a major USA airport has exposed a gap in airline security. Horizon Air is a division of Alaskan that flies shorter routes in the western US. Authorities are still at a loss to explain why he suddenly seized control of an empty, 76-seat commuter plane. "So that would be, they have their own security program through the TSA", said Wilsey. Video showed fiery flames amid trees on the island, which is sparsely populated and only accessible by ferry.

"The setup in aviation in America is we secure the airfield and then we have the mindset that we have employees that are credentialed and authorized to be there", Tilden said, adding that the airline was working with authorities to investigate. According to BuzzFeed, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and airline officials did not identify Russell, but said he joined Horizon Air in February 2015, which matched information listed on his LinkedIn page. "Pilots kept plane out of harm's way and people on ground safe", the sheriff tweeted. "I think I might mess something up there too".

NTSB investigators are set to analyze the recovered flight data recorder for clues next week.

After a Seattle airport worker flew off in a stolen plane last week, it's prompted the question: Could an impromptu air show happen in Kansas City?

Erroll Southers says Saturday that the unidentified man represents one of the greatest threats to aviation by being an insider cleared to have access to aircraft.

"It was unfathomable. It was something out of a movie", he told the newspaper.

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