FBI seeks motive after airline worker steals plane and then crashes it

A Horizon Q400

A Horizon Q400

The official wasn't authorised to discuss the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Acted alone he is 29-year-old Pierce county residence [sic]", the department tweeted.

After "doing stunts in (the) air" - or being flown without proper skills - for about an hour, the plane crashed at Ketron Island, the sheriff's department said.

"We are going to be thorough, which means taking the time needed to scour the area, delve into the background of the individual believed responsible, and review every aspect of this incident with all appropriate public & private partners", the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a statement.

Investigators would not name the employee who took the plane, but in a statement read by a family friend on Saturday night, the family confirmed it was Russell, who was married and lived in Sumner, Washington.

Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer told the Bellingham Herald that information was preliminary regarding the developing incident. There were no passengers aboard.

Other details about the man, who authorities have not publicly named, were emerging on Saturday. Ground service agents' job duties are to load and unload bags, direct aircraft for takeoff and de-ice planes in the winter.

Richard Bloom, an aviation security expert at Arizona's Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, said he wasn't aware of another incident in which a ground crew member managed to heist an airplane. "He had to have been pulling some hard forces coming out of that dive", said Furois. Video showed fiery flames amidst trees on the island, which is sparsely populated and only accessible by ferry.

Alaska Airlines said no structures on the ground were damaged.

At a news conference in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, officials from Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air said they still working closely with authorities as they investigated what happened. Without confirming anything, a stolen aircraft would be a security issue. Alaska Airlines said it was in a "maintenance position" and not scheduled for a passenger flight.

The stolen plane was a twin-engine turboprop Q400 belonging to Horizon Air, its parent company Alaska Airlines said on Twitter.

Fighter jets were scrambled after Russell, 29, stole a 76-seat Horizon Air plane at about 7.32pm local time on Friday.

"If this pilot, instead of doing what he ended up doing, had wanted to crash the airplane into downtown Seattle, the fighter (jets) were not going to be able to stop him; air traffic control was not going to stop him", Green said.

At one point, an air traffic controller advises he should land at the airfield of the nearby military base, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the Times reported.

Earlier in the flight, the man says: "This is probably, like, jail time for life, huh?"

"I would like to apologise to each and every one of them", he is heard saying in the recording. Got a few screws loose.

Normal operations at Sea-Tac resumed around 9:30 Friday night.

The crash sparked a fire in the dense forest.

A ground service agent's tasks don't involve touching planes' controls, CNN aviation analyst Mary Schiavo said. I think I might mess something up there too. We're trying to contact the military.

They described the man as "suicidal".

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