They referenced the recordings of him talking to air traffic controllers and said and that it's clear Russell, who went by the nickname "Beebo, " didn't intend to harm anyone and "he was right in saying that there are so many people who loved him".
Later, Mr Russell said: "I've got a lot of people that care about me".
Moments later Russell crashed the plane onto the sparsely-populated Ketron Island.
Two F-15 fighter jets took to the air from a base in Portland, Oregon, and were on the scene within minutes.
"Acting alone." He had been identified by authorities as a resident of Pierce County, though his name has not been released Friday.
He stressed that it was not a terrorism-related incident.
An airline employee's unauthorized takeoff from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport before dying in a crash will likely prompt a major review of already tightly controlled industry security measures, experts said Saturday.
The 76-seat Horizon Air turboprop plane took off without authorization at 7:32 p.m. local time Friday, with Russell, who was not a pilot, at the controls, officials said.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Alaska Airlines were headed to Ketron Island on Saturday morning to gather evidence from the site where a Horizon employee crashed a stolen airplane. "We are working back ground on him now", the Pierce County Sheriff wrote.
Later he says he's going to land it in a "safe manner" but then asks if the plane can do a barrel roll.
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!'
"Commercial aircraft are complex machines", Beck said. "Never really knew it until now", said Richard Russell.
In a recording posted to Broadcastify, the pilot can be heard calmly chatting with Air Traffic Control.
"Well", a controller responds, "we're not going to worry or think about that". It appeared the ground worker used a tow vehicle to rotate the plane 180 degrees on the tarmac before climbing into the cockpit, taxiing to a runway and taking off, Alaska executives said.
According to the mercurynews.com, witnesses reported seeing the Bombardier Q400, a turboprop aircraft, perform a loop-the-loop and almost slam into Chambers Bay, all while being pursued by fighter jets. Whether or not "Rich" realized it, the national guard had scrambled a pair of F-15 fighters to protect the airports in case he made any threatening moves toward one of them.
One colleague said, "People did not see him as a threat". Only the unknown pilot was on the plane.
On Saturday morning, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told media that President Donald Trump was briefed on the incident and is now "monitoring the situation" in Seattle.