Officials say he had clearance to be among aircraft, but that to their knowledge, he wasn't a licensed pilot.
It is unclear how he attained the skills to do loops in the aircraft before crashing about an hour after taking off, authorities said.
This explanation, offered to air traffic control during what is thought to be Russell's first and final cockpit session, came only minutes before the airport worker crashed the otherwise empty plane onto a sparse island in Puget Sound, killing himself, perhaps intentionally. Video showed fiery flames amidst trees on the island, which is sparsely populated and only accessible by ferry. It had described him as a airline mechanic, but Horizon Air said later that he was a ground service agent responsible for directing and de-icing aircraft. Investigators were trying to retrieve the plane's flight data recorder and its cockpit voice recorder.
"He worked his shift yesterday". In recorded comments to air traffic controllers, the 29-year-old Seattle-area resident had indicated he meant to crash the plane.
"There were some maneuvers that were done that were incredible maneuvers with the aircraft", Beck said.
Authorities say Russell, who worked as a ground service agent for Horizon, is presumed to be dead after authorities said he crashed into an island due to his "lack of flying skills".
The FBI and NTSB are continuing their investigation.
On the issue of background checks and mental-health screenings, it's possible airports could add screenings for ramp workers, Price said, or they could emphasize training for workers to be on the lookout for unusual or concerning behavior.
Richard Russell, who liked to be called Beebo, was a 29-year-old man living in Sumner, Washington, who was born in Key West, Florida, and moved to Wasilla, Alaska, when he was 7 years old, according to a Web page he set up for a college communications class. There were no passengers aboard.
The man - addressed as "Rich" - said he was concerned he was going to run low on fuel.
Gov. Jay Inslee thanked the Air National Guard from Washington and OR for scrambling jets and said in a statement "there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding tonight's tragic incident". "More information as we learn more".
"This is not a terrorist incident".
"Our hearts are with the families of the individual aboard as well as all of our Alaska Air and Horizon Air employees", said Constance von Muehlen, the airline's chief operating officer. It's going to disappoint them to hear that I did this.
Authorities don't know why he took the plane, but he could be heard on audio recordings telling air traffic controllers that he is "just a broken guy".
The video includes footage from Russell's apparently extensive global travel, and narration from Russell saying his job allowed him "to visit those I love most".
During conversations with the controller and jet pilots tailing him in F-15s, Russell enthuses about flying barrel loops, wonders if he'll get jail time for stealing the plane, but also makes ambiguous comments that could be interpreted as suicidal. "I'm a broken guy who had a few screws loose".
Leaders at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are preparing to gather Monday morning to discuss what policies could prevent insider security breaches similar to the Friday night heist of a turboprop plane that later crashed.