Friends of Richard Russell have described the 29-year-old hijacked the 76-seater turboprop Bombardier Q400, belonging to Alaska Airlines' sister carrier Horizon Air before performing loop-the-loops and crashing into an island as “always smiling” and a “hard worker.”
On Richard Russell’s Facebook page, a co-worker, Bronson Daniel Faletoi said he was “devastated”.
He wrote: “Had a difficult time sleeping. Eventually woke up extremely sad hoping it was a dream. Heavy heart. Tears falling down my cheek. Still shaken. Still shaking. Devastated.
“I don’t know how to express fully what I am feeling. Always smiling. Our many conversations about sometimes random things. I enjoyed working together on our flights. Very hard working. Always helping our team when needed. I remember your smile. I can still hear your laugh’’.
“I can still see you reading. Because you were an avid reader, you were knowledgeable of such random things. I miss you. Even though I never knew you outside of work, what I experienced with you is forever embedded in my mind and heart. Love you man.”
Another friend wrote: “You're a good guy. We saw videos of your flight. I cried so much today because you are gone now. You will not be forgotten.
“It's so sad that you were unhappy and didn't have help through it all. You did have an awesome joy ride though! I like your YouTube videos. God bless you Rich, and prayers to your family.”
While another person said: “RIP Bro... [Kudos] to you for going out the way that you wanted too... You’ve definitely earned your wings.”
Strangers from around the world posted messages of condolence on his page.
Lisa Michell wrote: “Didn't know you, but ohh you touched my heart. As a mom, I cried so hard for the pain that drove you to end your life. “I cried like I knew you. You were so young, such a beautiful young man. We send love to those who are left to grieve and prayers that you found your serenity, dear one.”
On his personal blog, Russell said he was born in Key West, Florida and moved to Alaska at age seven. He met "Hannah" in Coos Bay, Oregon and in 2011, the pair got married.
The couple ran a bakery for three years before moving to the Seattle suburb of Sumner to be closer to Russell’s in-laws.
Russell also mentions his job at Horizon in the blog when he wrote: “I’m able to fly … at my leisure.
“In this season of life we enjoy exploring as much as possible, whether it is a day (or so) trip to one of Alaska Airline’s destinations, or visiting a new area of Washington.”
Russell was studying for a degree in social sciences from Washington State University and wanted to move his way up to manager level in his company.
In his call to air traffic controllers, Russell described himself as having a "few screws lose" but didn't realise until now, the harrowing audio revealed Russell joking with the controllers who begged him to land the 76-seater plane before it nosedived and burst into a fireball 25 miles away.
In the chilling recording, he revealed he was a "broken man" and apologised to the air traffic controller. He also quipped: "Hey, do you think if I land this successfully Alaska will give me a job as a pilot?"