Micron CEO Steve Appleton, killed in tragic plane crash

Posted Feb 5, 2012 by Yukio Strachan
Steve Appleton, the chairman and CEO of computer memory chip maker, Micron, tragically died Friday when the small plane he was piloting crashed after alerting air-traffic control –– shortly after takeoff –– that he needed to turn back. He was 51.
Steve Appleton  Micron Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Steve Appleton, Micron Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Appleton, a professional stunt plane pilot, had taxied the single-engine, experimental Lancair IVP-TP from the Micron Technology company hangar, taken off, and returned once already that morning, said Patti Miller, spokesperson for the airport, the Associated Press reported.
The NTSB air safety investigator, Zoe Keliher explained that Appleton's first take-off ended abruptly — witnesses said the plane only got about 5 feet off the ground — when he re-landed and returned to a hangar for about five minutes. reported that a voice believed to be Appleton's can be heard in a recording between the plane and the Boise control tower:
Appleton: “One Lima Charlie is going to land here and stop. We’ve got a problem. Thanks.”
Boise air traffic control: “One Lima Charlie, do you need assistance?”
Appleton: “Negative. I’m going to taxi back and see if I can figure it out."
Keliher said witnesses reported that the plane then returned to the runway to take off again.
Boise air traffic control: “3-2-1 Lima Charlie, Boise tower, runway 10 right, cleared for take-off."
Appleton: “I’d like to turn back in and, uh, land. Coming back in.”
Boise air traffic control: “Oh my God. Oh my God.”
Witnesses reportedly saw the plane climb between 100-200 feet, “when it literally rolled over and dove into the ground,” Miller said.
The Associated Press reported that Appleton's body was thrown from the wreckage.
Appleton's wallet as well as some personal belongings were found in the wreckage. The time of the crash was given as 8:56 a.m. Mountain Standard Time.
According to The Lancair is a four-seat, experimental plane sold as a home-built kit, propelled by a 350-hp Continental turbo-prop engine.
“Lancair aircraft are quite safe,” said Doug Meyer, Director of Marketing and Sales for Lancair International.
Not everyone agrees. Home-built planes are more dangerous than factory-built aircraft, Terry O'Reilly, a San Mateo lawyer who specializes in aviation and products cases told the San Francisco Chronicle.
"The sky is a very inhospitable place to be. It's worse than being at sea. If something goes wrong at 10,000 feet, it's your ass," O'Reilly said. "With experimental planes, literally people can build them in their garage and put them in the air. Sometimes they are very well built and sometimes they are disasters."
A Lancair IV-P similar to the accident aircraft.
A Lancair IV-P similar to the accident aircraft.
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It's not the first time Appleton had been in a small plane crash.
On July 8, 2004, Appleton sustained a broken back, a collapsed lung, torn cartilage throughout his sternum and a two-inch laceration on his forehead after crashing an Extra 300L, a single-engine, two-passenger craft in an open field south of Boise along Thompson Road near Pleasant Valley, said the Wall Street Journal.
The NTSB later reported that Appleton was flying too close to the ground.
"Steve's passion and energy left an indelible mark on Micron, the Idaho community and the technology industry at large," Micron's board of directors said in a prepared statement.
Straight out of Boise State University, Appleton began work for $4.46 an hour at a new memory-chip maker called Micron Technology Inc on February 7, 1983 “when I was still stringing tennis racquets at Sunset Sports,” he once said in an interview.
“I was working three jobs, Micron, Sunset Sports and as a pro at the racquet club. My work day was 11 p.m. to 7 am at Micron, then to Sunset Sports and teaching tennis lessons. I pretty much worked seven days a week for a couple of years.”
He became CEO in 1994 at age 34, the third-youngest Fortune 500 CEO at that time. Micron Technology Inc. is second only to Samsung Electronics among the world's top memory-chip makers, USA Today reported. It is the largest U.S. manufacturer of DRAM memory chips for personal computers,
USA TODAY corporate management reporter Del Jones, in June 2006, interviewed Appleton on risk taking and success in life. The discussion soon moved to the 2004 accident:
Q: Speaking of risk, you nearly killed yourself flying aerobatics in a plane. Why should we take your advice about being bold?
A: The older you get, the more risk you should take. When George Bush Sr. went skydiving at 80, they made a big deal. What if his parachute didn't open? So what? It's not like the guy hasn't done anything with his life. Kids who are 18 think they will live forever and take huge risk. They have their entire lives ahead of them. If I were to die tomorrow, I have no complaints. I've experienced more than anybody should expect in a lifetime.
Appleton leaves behind his wife, Dalynn, and four children — 10-year-old Anabella, her younger brother Jake and two older daughters from a previous relationship, The Idaho Statesman reported.