"Got a few screws loose, I guess", Russell is heard saying in the recording.
In a written statement to the media on Saturday, Russell's family described him as a faithful husband, loving son and a good friend who didn't mean to harm anyone.
Russell worked for Horizon Air - a subsidiary of Alaska Airlines - for over three years.
Those employees direct aircraft for take-off and gate approach and de-ice planes.
Officials do not believe Russell had a pilot's license, and they do not know how he knew to fly the plane.
He remembered him as a amusing guy who also had a smile and a joke and was a great team player. "I would hope it is for a guy like me". "People need to realize that flying an aircraft is not hard, flying it correctly is the hard part".
F-15s did not bring the plane down..
An airline employee who stole a Horizon Air passenger plane from a Seattle airport had legitimate access to be near planes.
The stolen plane was a twin-engine turboprop Q400 belonging to Horizon Air, its parent company Alaska Airlines said on Twitter.
The flight lasted about 75 minutes, and ended when he crashed into the small island after being chased by military jets.
Fire crews were working on putting out the fire from the crash on Ketron Island in Puget Sound. No one was hurt on the ground, authorities said. In a news release issued Saturday, the North American Aerospace Defense Command said two F-15C alert aircraft were scrambled from Portland but did not fire upon the plane.
While the crash only killed Russell, the brazen stealing of a commercial airline from a major USA airport has exposed a gap in airline security.
Authorities described him as being suicidal, adding that the incident is not related to terrorism.
The recovery of the cockpit voice recorder and the event data recorder from the plane will reportedly be vital in the investigation. The FBI is now investigating, while Alaska Air is cooperating with authorities and their own safety team to make sense of exactly what went down.
Smoke and an orange glow seen on Ketron Island in Washington state.
"This is going to be a major learning event for the industry", CNN aviation analyst Justin Green said.
At around 8pm the Horizon Air employee stole a 76-seater Horizon Air turboprop Q400 from a maintenance area at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and took to the skies, despite not having any apparent flying experience. This is aviation in America.
Tilden said airplanes of that type do not have doors that lock or ignition keys like cars.
He appeared to have broken protocol several times. For one, Russell shouldn't have been able to board the plane alone, he said. A Cessna 150 is a two-seat civilian aircraft. "I would like to apologize to each and everyone one of them", said Russell.
"He had access legitimately" to the plane said Mike Ehl, director of aviation operations at the airport in the U.S. state of Washington, adding that "no security violations were committed".