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An air traffic controller called the man "Rich", and tried to convince him to land the airplane.

Local media citing sources at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) air force base said one or more F-15 fighter planes contacted the rogue aircraft and it crashed soon afterwards.

'This is probably jail time for life, huh?

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

"They said there was some kind of emergency somewhere on the runway, and after that we just sat there for 40 minutes", one told Reuters. Got a few screws loose, I guess.

Fire crews were working on putting out the fire from the crash on Ketron Island in Puget Sound.

Two military F-15s were scrambled to chase the stolen plane, but officials said the jets were not involved in the crash.

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said the man "did something foolish and may well have paid with his life".

Federal Bureau of Investigation said it does not consider the incident terror-related as authorities try to piece together how a security scare of that magnitude occurred at major airport.

The 29-year-old ground service agent, whose name was not released, hijacked a 76-seat Q400 aircraft belonging to Alaska Airlines' regional carrier Horizon around 7:30 p.m.

Authorities say the man went through various background checks to get clearance to be in the secured area.

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She said the plane was "highly fragmented" and the wings were detached from the fuselage.

Gary Beck, chief executive of Horizon Air, said it wasn't clear how the man knew to start the engine, which requires a series of switches and levers.

A "suicidal" airline employee at Seattle's Sea-Tac International Airport stole an empty plane Friday night for a freakish joyride, performing risky air maneuvers under close pursuit by F-15 fighter jets before crashing into an island.

The Pierce County Sheriff´s office ruled out terrorism Friday.

Mr Russell, 29, who authorities say was suicidal and did not have a pilot's licence, died after the plane plummeted into a small island yesterday.

Gary Howell, a Wasilla High track and field coach, said he remembered Russell as a amusing guy who also had a smile and a joke and was a great team player.

The freaky incident involving a worker who authorities said was suicidal points to one of the biggest potential perils for commercial air travel: airline or airport employees causing mayhem.

Authorities said he'd been an employee of Horizon since 2015 and "was fully credentialed and had access to" the cargo area where the Q400 was kept.

The incident shut down Sea-Tac Airport but flights are returning to normal.

"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. He didn't hear the crash, but saw smoke.