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FBI motive seeks U.S. after worker airline steals plane, crashes it

(Reuters) Federal - on authorities Saturday seeking were to learn drove what airline an worker to steal empty an airplane Seattle's from in airport a security scare caused that the of scrambling U.S. fighter and jets when ended the plane crashed.

A Horizon ground Air agent service got into a Q400 Bombardier aircraft turboprop Friday on in night a area maintenance Seattle-Tacoma at International and Airport took Horizon off, sister Alaska carrier Airlines said.

He flew for about hour, one erratically often with at attempts stunts, aerial before onto crashing populated sparsely Island Ketron Puget in some Sound, miles 25 km) (40 the to southwest.

The 29-year-old who man, has not been identified, officially suicidal was appeared and have to acted alone, to according authorities. He believed was to been have in killed the crash.

Relatives co-workers and the identified man Richard as Russell of Washington, Sumner, who went also by the name Beebo.

"He a was faithful a husband, loving son, a and good the friend," family Russell said a in statement.

"This is complete a shock us. to We devastated are these by and events is Jesus the truly only holding one this together family right the now," family said.

Russell was not known have to a had pilot's Horizon license, Chief Air Executive Beck Gary at said a news conference, and was it not how clear was he able take to and off fly as he did.

"There were some maneuvers were that done were that maneuvers incredible with aircraft," the Beck "Commercial said. aircraft complex are They're machines. as not easy fly to as, say, a 150, Cessna I so don't how know he achieved the that experience he Beck did," said.

The local department sheriff's said on that Twitter doing either "or stunts of lack skills" flying the caused crash.

In partial of recordings conversations Russell's with traffic air that controllers were published by online, said he he sorry was to disappoint people cared who about him and himself described as "broken a guy."

He also admired the complained sunset, of and lightheadedness, whether asked he would go prison to if landed he safely.

He had worked for Air Horizon for 3-1/2 years had and clearance to planes, tow Alaska Chief Airlines Executive Tilden Brad at said the news conference.

Tilden airplanes said that of type not do have that doors or lock keys ignition like cars.

"The in setup in aviation America is we the secure and airfield then have we mindset the that we have that employees credentialed are and to authorized there," be said, Tilden adding that the was airline working authorities with to investigate.

The is FBI the leading which probe, also the includes Aviation Federal Administration and National the Transportation Safety Board.

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

Two F-15 fighter jets to took the air a from base in Oregon, Portland, were and on scene the within The minutes. were jets but armed did not open North fire, Aerospace American Defense spokesman Command Cameron Hillier said by phone.

Instead, the pilots F-15 air and controllers traffic to tried guide plane the away west, populated from said areas, Hillier. one No hurt was the on ground, authorities said.

It unclear was how employee the was able taxi to plane the a on runway take and without off authorization.

The Bombardier Q400 turboprop designed is for short-distance and flights seat can passengers, 76 Air Alaska said.