Two military planes were soon in pursuit, and tailed the man for the rest of his journey around Seattle and Puget Sound.
"I was thinking, like, I'm going to have this moment of serenity, take in all the sights".
An air traffic controller could be heard saying: "Right now, he's just flying around, and just he needs some help controlling his aircraft".
Irwin Downes recorded a cloud of smoke billowing from Ketron Island after the crash.
Alaska Air said the F-15s were scrambled from a Portland airbase.
Experts say it's common for airlines to have multiple people working together while moving a plane so the question is how did Russell tow the aircraft alone and get into the plane unnoticed.
PCSD officials also said this is not a terrorist incident.
The Bombardier Q400 turboprop airplane is designed for shorter-distance flights and can seat 76 passengers, Alaska Air said on its website.
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Asylum seekers previously had to show that the government in their native country was "unable or unwilling" to protect them. Several coworkers at the factory where Carmen worked had been murdered, and her husband is also abusive, the records state.
The 29-year-old used a machine called a pushback tractor to first manoeuvre the aircraft, which was in a maintenance area, so he could board and then take off Friday evening, authorities said.
"Until the Federal Bureau of Investigation has the opportunity to get better background on the person, find out what motive they had, it's a little too early to make a determination on what the objective was", Debra Eckrote, the NTSB's western Pacific region chief, said at a news conference. Ketron Island is a sparsely populated island 25 miles (40 km) southwest of the airport.
Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden said in a statement early Saturday morning that the airline was "working to find out everything we possibly can about what happened". But authorities say they didn't fire on it before it crashed.
"Our hearts are with the family of the individual aboard, along with all of our Alaska Air and Horizon Air employees", Horizon Air Chief Operating Officer Constance von Muehlen said in a video posted on Twitter.
Airports and airlines conduct background checks, but Stratman said they don't include mental health screenings. We're trying to get accurate information about what is actually going on.
The agency said they found the flight data recorder and parts of the voice recorder in the wreckage.
Video from a witness on the ground shows the plane at one point pulling up for a loop, putting the aircraft upside-down and then pulling back up just feet above a body of water.
Military Times reports that NORAD directed the pilots to "fly supersonic to expedite the intercept ... while air traffic control tried to talk the pilot into landing the plane at nearby Joint Base Lewis McChord".
"It was unfathomable. It was something out of a movie", he told the newspaper.