NTSB still investigating Micron CEO's fatal plane crash in Boise

The Micron CEO identified a problem in the experimental plane after his aborted takeoff.

jsowell@idahostatesman.comDecember 30, 2013 

0204 local crash2

Emergency personnel look over the wreckage of a Lancair experimental aircraft that crashed at the Boise Airport Friday morning, Feb. 3, 2012, in Boise, Idaho. Officials at Boise Airport say an experimental aircraft crashed between two runways, killing the only person on board, reportedly Micron CEO Steve Appleton.

JOE JASZEWSKI — Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman

Nearly two years after Micron CEO Steve Appleton, 51, died when his single-engine experimental plane crashed at the Boise Airport, the federal National Transportation Safety Board continues to look into the accident.

“The investigation is still ongoing,” NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said earlier this month. “There’s no set date on when a final report will be available.”

Witnesses told authorities they observed the four-seat Lancair IVP-PT take off and climb 5 to 10 feet off the ground before touching back down on Feb. 3, 2012. Appleton, the only person aboard the plane, taxied back toward the west end of the airport and then took off a second time.

The plane climbed to 100 to 200 feet before making a steep bank to the left and beginning to roll, according to the preliminary NTSB report issued Feb. 9, 2012. The aircraft rapidly lost altitude and crashed nose-first after making about one revolution, the report stated.

The plane came to rest between two of the airport’s runways.

The aircraft was built in 2007 and sold to Appleton by a North Carolina company a month before the crash. Appleton spoke by radio to an air traffic controller before the initial landing, saying there was an unknown problem.

“I am going to taxi back and see if I can figure it out,” Appleton said.

Seven minutes later, Appleton told the controller he wanted to depart again and stay in the traffic pattern around the airport.

During his last transmission, at 8:55 a.m., Appleton said he would “like to turn back in and ... land ... coming back in.”

The main wreckage was located about 80 feet from the initial point of impact.

The engine, engine accessories and three aircraft recorders were recovered for analysis.

Previous accounts said Appleton had only flown the plane a few times, possibly as few as three.

Lancair, a Redmond, Ore., company, has sold more than 2,100 kits in 34 countries, according to the company’s website. Its first model was initially flown in 1984.

NTSB records show there were 98 fatal accidents in the United States involving Lancair planes between 1989 and 2007, KOIN-TV in Portland reported after a Lancair crashed in late October into a house in McMinnville, Ore.

The pilot in that crash died. A woman sitting a few feet away from where the plane landed was not hurt.

The Federal Aviation Administration in 2009 issued a notice to Lancair owners that the plane had a “disproportionate” number of fatal accidents.

Although the Lancair accounted for only 3 percent of the country’s amateur-built airplanes, it accounted for 16 percent of the fatal accidents in the 11 months before the notice was issued.

The FAA claimed that the high-performance plane’s handling, stability and stall characteristics exposed pilots to additional risk during slow-speed flying near the ground.

The agency recommended that pilots receive additional instruction in recognizing and reacting to a stall. It also advised adding an angle-of-attack indicator to counter the plane’s tendency to give little or no warning that it was about to stall.

The FAA withdrew the notice a couple of weeks later, saying it wanted to re-evaluate the advisory.

Appleton and a passenger suffered serious injuries during an earlier crash in July 2004. Appleton suffered head injuries, a punctured lung, a ruptured disc and several broken bones.

He was performing acrobatic maneuvers in a stunt plane that he owned. The plane crashed in the desert south of Boise when it failed to pull up from a loop, cartwheeled across the ground and landed upside-down.

The NTSB did not find anything wrong with that plane that would have caused the wreck.

John Sowell: 377-6423

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