Federal investigators say they found no evidence of any mechanical malfunctions in an experimental airplane before a 2012 crash that killed Micron CEO Steve Appleton.
The National Transportation Safety Board also reported August 12 that Appleton didn’t take specialized training before crashing while taking off from the airport in Boise, where Micron is based.
“No evidence was found indicating that the pilot had received flight instruction in the accident airplane or in any other Lancair IV-TP,” the report said.
The agency’s report doesn’t say what caused the fatal crash. It was unclear when the agency will release a final probable cause report.
Micron spokesman Dan Francisco said August 14 the company had no comment on the NTSB report.
The four-seat Lancair was built in 2007. Appleton, 51, was the only person aboard when it steeply banked, stalled and crashed near a Boise runway on its second takeoff attempt. The engine, engine accessories and three aircraft recorders were recovered for analysis.
The report noted that Appleton had flown in the airplane previously, making two roundtrips between Boise and Sandpoint in northern Idaho, and roundtrips from Boise to Richland, Wash., and to Bullhead City, Ariz.
Appleton started working at Micron in 1983 and became CEO and chairman of the memory chip maker in 2007. He had a reputation as a hard-driving daredevil and was known for taking risks in stunt piloting. He survived a crash in 2004 that left him with a punctured lung, head injuries, ruptured disk and broken bones.
Micron colleagues said his energy and drive helped establish the Idaho company’s place on the world stage as one of the leaders in memory chip production.
In a notice sent to Lancair owners in 2009, the Federal Aviation Administration warned that the high-performance plane’s handling, stability and stall characteristics could expose pilots to additional risk during slow-speed flying near the ground.
The report on April 12 said Appleton told an airport worker who fueled the craft on the day of the crash that he liked the Lancair because of its speed, but he also described it as “squirrelly.” Experts say the craft could travel more than 300 mph.
Family members said Appleton was planning to fly to Glendale, Ariz., and return the same day. The airplane’s instruments showed it reached 310 feet in the air and 152 mph before banking 16 degrees to the left.
Lancair, based in Redmond, Ore., supplied the kit for the plane. The company said it wouldn’t comment specifically about the crash until federal investigators made a final report. But the company did make a statement about the airplane.
“This was an amateur built high performance aircraft that had been modified extensively by its multiple owners, changing it in many ways from the kit’s original design, and the NTSB will look at these and other relevant facts when they make their determination,” the company said, noting it no longer makes that series of kits developed in the 1990s. “Our newer designs require fewer model-specific piloting skills, yet offer a higher level of flight safety and performance.”
The NTSB report said Appleton had experience in a wide variety of aircraft and had owned more than 20.