Celebrities Killed in Aviation Accidents


What the heck, it’s been a kinda slow week in the forum. Why not throw this one out. I saw where some teen actor was killed in Mexico the other day in a plane crash. This, along with all the NASCAR talk, got me thinking about comprising a list of all the celebs that I (or you) could think of that have died tragically (or been involved) in aircraft disasters. Here’s a few off the top of my head:

First of all, NASCAR could have its own list all by itself. There was Davey Allison, whose helicopter crashed in the infield of Talladega Superspeedway.

There was the tragic loss of 10 members of Rick Hendrick’s crew and family 2 years ago in Martinsville, VA just before the start of a race in which two of Hendrick’s cars (Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon) finished 1st and 2nd, then were told of the accident. I think that was an Embraer Brasilia.

I mentioned in another discussion that Jack Rousch narrowly escaped death when his Cessna crashed into a pond, only to be pulled out of the submerged a/c by the owner of said pond.

I think everyone here remebers the JFK Jr. crash (spatial disorientation while flying VFR in IFR conditions).

Anyone remember Thurman Munson, the outstanding player for the Yankees in the late '70s? He crashed while practicing approaches to KCAK (His hometown was Canton, OH).

Payne Stewart.

John Denver.

Richie Valens and Buddy Holly (same crash).

I know there’s more, but I’m starting to draw blanks. One I can think of (but I can’t recall the guy’s name) was the former Heisman trophy candidate from Nebraska (QB). I want to say that his name started with a “B,” but I’ll have to search for the info on that one. Pika probably knows, since he’s in Big 12 Country. Feel free to add any that you can think of if you want. Or don’t; it’s a free country, and I was bored. :wink:


Ronnie Van Zant and 2 members of Lynard Skynard were killed in plane crash in Gillsburg, MS. They were travelling b/w Greenville, SC and Baton Rouge, LA when they went down.


This could get grim…

Stevie Ray Vaughan Helo crash leaving a gig in 1990.


Randy Rhodes (Lead guitarist of the rock group headed by Ozzy Osbourne)
The pilot was “buzzing” Ozzy’s mansion at the time.

Ricky Nelson (Teen Idol)
Cabin fire led to loss of control

Jim Croce (Folk Singer)
Pilot in command failed to see and avoid objects or obstruction on takeoff

Otis Redding (Folk Singer)
Aircraft spun into a lake 3 miles from landing.

Patsy Cline (C&W Singer)
JFK, Jr. style - Noninstrument pilot attempted visual flight in adverse weather conditions, resulting in a loss of control.

For the record, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane:
Forced landing off airport on land due to fuel starvation.

…Hell - let’s just do this all on one page! :wink:

(sorry to spoil the fun, but I feel like a smart-ass tonight)


Let’s not forget Vic Morrow. He wasn’t IN a helicopter when it crashed, but he was decapitated by the “chopper’s” main rotor blades while filming Twilight Zone: The Movie. So technically, he was killed in an aeronautical accident.

D’ya suppose that’s where the helicopter got its nickname?


I would recommend going to see lynard skynard in concert if you get the chanceI saw them on the tenth, it was a pretty sweet show.


ALAN KULWICKI; remember the "Polish Victory Lap?"My favorite driver of all time.

Somewhere I have a cap signed by all the Ford drivers from 1991; including Kulwicki, Allison, Elliot, Martin, and a whole lot more. All signed at the Bud at the Glen.


For some reason I was thinking he was killed in a car accident, but now that you mention it, you’re probably right. Don’t know how the hell I forgot about the 'Skynyrd crash. As far as another notable crash (although not quite celebrites outside of WV), there was the tragic crash that killed several members of Marshall’s football team, in the '70s as well IIRC.

Thanks for the link, Needle (Killjoy :smiley: ). I didn’t know Glenn Miller died in a plane crash (disappearance).


Funny you should mention Glenn Miller! I was just about to post his page from wikipedia when I noticed the Plane Crash category link at the bottom, and decided to post that instead. What a coincidence!! :open_mouth:


But one thing it’s interesting to note in this morbid discussion is which celebs were acting as their own pilot when they crashed?

John Denver and JFK Jr wre already mentioned, but were any of the other ones piloting the plane themselves?

Let’s face it, overconfidence in your own abilities can be absolutely deadly in the cockpit, yet it is a personality trait that helps if your a star, in terms of personal drive to succeed, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that pilots shouldn’t have confidence, but the “I’m so important I can do anything” (even if I don’t have a clue what 'm doing/talking about) ego trip that some stars are on could be a disaster waiting to happen in an airplane…


Stephen Colbert’s father and brother were killed in a crash outside og GSO. According to Wikipedia


There are a few names that planeaholic mentioned in his initial post with which I’m not familiar, so I’m not familiar with any of the details of their demise. For the most part, I think there are very FEW celebrity pilots who die in plane crashes acting as their own pilot. JFK Jr. would be the notable exception.

I believe John Denver’s crash was the result of mechanical failure in an experimental aircraft, and I’m not certain of the specifics of whether he built/maintained it. Certainly his death would not have been directly related to his overconfidence in his abilities, unless he WAS the one building/maintaining the aircraft and did some stupid tweak to the engine or airframe.

I think that for the most part, flying celebrities enjoy their lives and lifestyles, and are careful about NOT losing it. The ones I listed above were all passengers.


Denver did purchase and did not build the Long EZ he was flying. Many of the causes of the crash were due to pilot error. This is the NTSB’s finding of probable causes:

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
the pilot’s diversion of attention from the operation of the airplane and his inadvertent application of right rudder that resulted in the loss of airplane control while attempting to manipulate the fuel selector handle. Also, the Board determined that the pilot’s inadequate preflight planning and preparation, specifically his failure to refuel the airplane, was causal. The Board determined that the builder’s decision to locate the unmarked fuel selector handle in a hard-to-access position, unmarked fuel quantity sight gauges, inadequate transition training by the pilot, and his lack of total experience in this type of airplane were factors in the accident.

Source: ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=20 … 9045&key=1


I was JUST NOW reading that. So, I gues in Denver’s case, a certain amount of overconfidence existed there as well, but I’m still sticking to my theory that celeb pilots are typically MORE CAREFUL than they are overconfident.


I should clarify that I was not necessarily saying that the JFK or John Denver crashes were due to overconfidence - I just ran two thoughts together in my last post. Both were pilot error, although in the case of John Denver, I believe it also had to due with bad design (can’t remember the specifics at the moment - will look at the NTSB report later). We can never know what was in an individual’s mind who has crashed, but I think that it would be a definite risk with some celebs (was it with JD and JFK - maybe, maybe not, but a thought that gives one pause)

The word overconfidence doesn’t quite convey what I’m thinking, either…more like a person who has enough money and power that they can get pretty much anything they want. Sort of an “I can accomplish anything” type of attitude


Roberto Clemente
Will Rogers
Amelia Earhart
Rocky Marciano
Knute Rockne


Don’t forget about Davey Allison. He was killed attempting a downwind landing in a confined area at Talledega Superspeedway in 1993. He only had about 9 hours in his new Hughes 369.


Read my original post; paragraph 2, sentence 2. :wink:


Now why would somebody take the trouble of reading through an entire thread before posting??? ESPECIALLY THE OP’S ORIGINAL POST… That’s just CRAZY-TALK!

Read a subject line, find it interesting, look to see if the last message contains your thought or not, and then post it if not! Isn’t THAT how it works?

I’m just waitin’ for the next person to mention Lynyrd Skynyrd…


Lynyrd Skynyrd :laughing: