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Horizon worker who stole plane mentioned minimum wage from cockpit

About 45 minutes into the flight, Richard Russell mentions Horizon Airlines and the low wage they pay him.
About 45 minutes into the flight, Richard Russell mentions Horizon Airlines and the low wage they pay him. (Photo: KING)

The Horizon Airlines employee who stole a plane from Sea-Tac International Airport and crashed it in a South Sound island talked about his state of mind, his job and that he made minimum wage during his unauthorized flight Friday night.

About 45 minutes into the erratic flight, Richard Russell was recorded on audiotape mentioning Horizon Airlines and the low wage they pay him.

"Minimum wage, we'll chalk it up to that. Maybe that will grease some gears a little bit with the higher-ups," he said.

LISTEN: Cockpit audio from worker who stole empty plane from Sea-Tac Airport

Co-workers tell KING 5 working on the ramp at Horizon is an understaffed, grueling grind where employees aren't treated with respect. Some said the work culture most likely prompted Russell to teach the bosses a lesson.

"He was going to show them that they pushed a good guy to his limits," said one worker.

But on his active social media accounts, Russell isn't venting about poor pay or intolerable working conditions. He posts pictures where he looks proud to be on the tarmac. And he writes about the great airline benefits of free travel, with trips to France, Mexico, ski resorts, Ireland and Alaska.

WATCH: Who is Richard Russell

In a video he posted, Russell says, "Hi, I'm Beebo (Richard) Russell, and I'm a ground service agent. That means I lift a lot of bags.... but it allows me to do some pretty cool things too."

Russell's blog also shows a fascination with aviation in general, posting notes about a personal logo he's creating, including sketches of a ramp worker, airlines and a specific reference to a Q400, the exact type of plane he stole and crashed.

VIDEO: Plane stolen from Sea-Tac crashes on small Washington island

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were focusing their efforts on recovering the pilot and flight data recorders from the crash scene on Ketron Island, where the plane crashed.

VIDEO: FBI, NTSB focusing on recovering black boxes on Ketron Island crash

AvTech Services, a Kent-based company that specializes in aircraft recovery and hauling, boarded a ferry to the crash scene Sunday morning. AvTech has previously worked in aircraft accident investigations with the NTSB and the FAA.

More coverage of the stolen plane crash:

Horizon Air employee stole, crashed plane on Pierce County island

How did man who stole plane at Sea-Tac fly it for over an hour?

Friendly tone contradicted drastic actions of Seattle plane thief

FBI recovers man's body and black box from wreckage of stolen plane

Childhood friend believes man who stole plane had brain trauma from football

Firefighters battle more than flames after Ketron Island plane crash

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