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Federal authorities today were seeking to learn what drove an airline worker to steal an empty airplane from Seattle's airport in a security scare that caused the scrambling of US fighter jets and ended when the plane crashed onto a sparsely populated island.

The 29-year-old Horizon Air ground service agent - the only person aboard - died, the Pierce County Sheriff's Department said, without further identifying him.

At one point, he said: "Hey do you think if I land this successfully Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?"

"Just a broke guy, got a few screws loose I guess".

The biggest question: How did a ground service agent - whose job includes directing planes for takeoff and gate approaches as well as baggage handling and de-icing - manage to steal a 76-seat Horizon Air turboprop and fly it for almost an hour Friday night with military jets in pursuit before plunging into a wooded island?

He flew it for an hour, followed by two armed F-15 jets from OR that the military scrambled, before he crashed.

Yesterday's crash happened because Mr Russell was "doing stunts in air or lack of flying skills", the Pierce County Sheriff's Department said.

While authorities did not release the man's name, they say the man was suicidal, and officials said Friday night the man is likely dead.

Sheriff Paul A. Pastor said at the press conference that there was no sign that it was a terrorist attack.

The aircraft was stolen at about 8pm, Alaska Airlines said it was in a "maintenance position" and not scheduled for a passenger flight.

Airport employee Richard Russell shockingly stole an Alaska Airlines plane at the Seattle-Tacoma airport on August 10 and took it for a weird joyride by himself before it crashed.

Officials said on Saturday the man was a 3.5-year Horizon Airlines employee and had clearance to be among aircraft, but that to their knowledge, he wasn't a licensed pilot.

There was no connection to terrorism, Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the sheriff's department, said.

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"It is highly fragmented", she said of the plane.

The couple traveled to Puerto Rico earlier this year, where Hannah Instagrammed a photo of them sitting on the beach with the caption: 'I'm so thankful for this man!'

He said the pilot then "pulled pretty much straight up and kind of at an angle", adding he "somehow he got it levelled back off and then made his way down toward the island".

He then said: "I wouldn't know how to land - I wasn't really planning on landing it".

"Oh, Richard", the controller responds.

The plane crashed into a small island in the Puget Sound some time after 8 p.m. local time, according to authorities.

Investigators expect they will be able to recover both the cockpit voice recorder and the event data recorder from the plane.

A nearby military base dispatched two F-15 fighter jets, who diverted the aircraft away from residents, before it crashed into a nearby island.

"No security violations were committed", said Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden.

"I lift a lot of bags". F-15 fighter jets were sent from Portland to control the situation and, if necessary to intercept it.

"I understand you have a lot of questions but our investigation aims to be thorough", Dietrich-Williams said via email.

After the plane approached Ketron Island, Waldron saw a thick column of smoke followed by a loud explosion, he said.