February 3, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
Micron Technology CEO Steve Appleton died in the crash of a Lancair IVP-TP airplane at the Boise, Idaho, airport Feb. 3. He was 51.
Appleton was the sole occupant of the aircraft that crashed shortly after takeoff, said Patti Miller, spokesperson for the airport, who had just attended a National Transportation Safety Board briefing. Published reports said Appleton acquired the aircraft in December from a seller in North Carolina and that it arrived in Boise on Dec. 30.
According to Miller, Appleton had taxied the airplane from the Micron Technology company hangar, taken off, and returned once already that morning. He was making his second departure of the day when the accident occurred.
“He went back out and had just taken off (and climbed) to 100 or 200 feet when it literally rolled over and dove into the ground,” she said, citing the NTSB briefing. The time of the crash was given as 8:56 a.m. Mountain Standard Time.
Airport operations were shut down briefly after the accident, with one of two runways reopened for flight operations at 9:16 a.m. Later, some news media aired a brief segment of an air traffic control recording on which a pilot could be heard to say, “I’d like to turn back in and land. Coming back in,” followed by a controller clearing him to land, cancelling another aircraft’s takeoff clearance, and saying that an emergency was in progress.
On Feb. 8 Micron Technology announced that a public memorial service for Appleton had been scheduled for Feb. 23 on the campus of Boise State University, which Appleton attended. Two memorial funds have also been established: the Boise State University Foundation Steve Appleton Fund, and the Make-a-Wish Foundation’s Steve Appleton Fund. The company has donated $25,000 to each, it said.
Appleton, an AOPA member since 1988, was born March 31, 1960, grew up in California, and attended Boise State on a scholarship for tennis.
He held an airline transport pilot certificate with an airplane, multi-engine land rating; held commercial privileges for airplanes, single-engine land and multi-engine seaplanes; and private pilot privileges in single-engine seaplanes. He was type rated in Cessna Citation CE-500 and CE-525S jets, and held an authorization for the experimental Hunter Viperjet.
The Associated Press reported that the semiconductor company leader, who also was known for a penchant for racing cars and motorcycles, had been involved in a July 2004 accident near Boise in which he suffered severe injuries.
Asked in a June 2006 USA Today interview to discuss his views on risk-taking, he offered this response: “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.”
The Wall Street Journal described Appleton as one of the most prominent figures in an industry in which his company was “the last remaining U.S. competitor.”
Micron’s board of directors issued this statement following the accident: “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.”
The day after the accident, the board named D. Mark Durcan, 51, the company’s CEO. Durcan had been president and chief operating office since 2007, and a Micron employee since 1984.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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