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Executive was piloting experimental plane, had crashed once before unharmed

Memory chipmaker Micron Technology, Inc. (MU) and the business world as a whole was rocked on Friday when news broke that Micron CEO and Chairman Steven Appleton had died tragically in a plane crash.

Mr. Appleton was reportedly piloting a Lancair fixed-wing single-engine plane from Boise Airport, when a crash occurred at 8:58 a.m.  Local sources are indicating that the aircraft was an experimental design.  According to local news site KBOI:

At a press conference Friday afternoon, a NTSB investigator said witnesses reportedly saw the plane climb between 100-200 feet, make a sharp maneuver, stall and then roll into the ground.

The crash was perhaps foreshadowed by a fortuitous 2004 crash landing in which Mr. Appleton was forced to crash land a craft he was piloting in an open field.  He and his passenger escaped that encounter with only bumps and bruises.

The CEO was a Boise State University graduate and a keen sportsman, attending the university's business administration program on a tennis scholarship.  After graduation he played professional tennis for six months. He then joined Micron in 1983.  He would go on to become president and chief operating officer in 1991.  In 1994 he switched roles to CEO and president and then 2007, he transitioned to being just the CEO and Chairman.

Micron has been publicly traded since 1984.  Shares of the company were frozen following the sad news.  

Micron CEO plane crash
[Image Source: KBOI/YouTube]

Micron is a bastion of the Idaho area, employing 5,000-5,500 employees in the state last year, out of its global workforce of around 20,000 employees.

Mr. Appleton was a board member of the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) -- an industry trade group.  SIA president Brian Toohey in a prepared statement remarked, "Steve was a visionary and a true leader in our industry. He will be deeply missed..."

In a press release Micron writes:

We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Appleton, Micron Chairman and CEO, passed away this morning in a small plane accident in Boise. He was 51.

Our hearts go out to his wife, Dalynn, his children and his family during this tragic time.

Steve's passion and energy left an indelible mark on Micron, the Idaho community and the technology industry at large.

Micron is today the only DRAM manufacturer in the United States and is No. 287 on the 2011 Fortune 500 list.  The company reversed losses in 2008 and 2009, posting a healthy profit in 2010.  But in 2011 that profit slid, and in Q4 2011 Micron was back in the red.

DailyTech would like to extend its thoughts and sympathies to Mr. Appleton's family and his many close friends at Micron.

Sources: Micron, KBOI, SIA Board



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RE: Sad..
By cjc1103 on 2/4/2012 2:13:20 PM , Rating: 2
Lancair is a reputable manufacturer of kit aircraft, but as another post said, the owner/builder is responsible for at least 51% of the construction. If this was indeed the aircraft's maiden voyage, the accident could have been caused by a lots of things, such as a CG aft of the allowable limit, a control malfunction such as the ailerons could have been rigged incorrectly, trim control could have been reversed, or he could have had a fuel line blockage causing a power loss after takeoff. There's a thousand things that could go wrong. Yes the aircraft is inspected for basic airworthiness before flight, but on a kit airplane like this, it takes time to get problems worked out to prove the aircraft reliable.


RE: Sad..
By EricMartello on 2/6/2012 2:33:24 AM , Rating: 2
Having worked on cars for a lot of my life, I can say that machines can be quite finicky and prone to "WTF" issues that happen even if you think all is well. It's often something dumb, like a connector that isn't completely connected or some debris stuck in a tube, a faulty relay that works "sometimes" but not always...things that you would miss during a visual inspection.

I trust my mechanical abilities but not to the extent that I'd stake my life on it by flying a kit plane I built myself without being able to test it without flying it (i.e. anchored in a wind tunnel). Having WTF problem mid-flight often a death sentence.


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