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Micron CEO Steve Appleton dies in plane crash

Steve Appleton, chairman and CEO of memory chip maker Micron Technology, died today after suffering fatal injuries in a plane crash at the Boise Airport in Idaho. He was 51.

“We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Appleton, Micron Chairman and CEO, passed away this morning in a small plane accident in Boise,” the company said in a statement. “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.”

According to the Idaho Press, Appleton was flying alone in “an experimental fixed wing single engine Lancair” aircraft. Just after takeoff from Boise Airport, Appleton told air traffic controllers that he needed to return.

“I’d like to turn back in… and land.  Coming back in,” Appleton said, just before he lost control of the aircraft, according to NWCN.com.

Appleton was a known daredevil. According to his Wikipedia page, Appleton’s “hobbies include scuba diving, surfing, wakeboarding, motorcycles and more recently off road car racing. His aviation background includes multiple ratings and professional performances at air shows in both propeller- and jet-powered aircraft. He also has a Black Belt in Taekwondo.” In 2010, Appleton took 7th overall in the epic Baja 1000 race, with a time of 20:32:18.

In July of 2004, Appleton crashed one of his 20 planes while performing stunts over the Idaho desert. In that instance, he only sustained minor cuts and scrapes

Appleton began his career at Micron, which makes DRAM, NAND and NOR flash memory, back in 1983. He held a number of positions in the company before being named CEO in 1994.  He was only 34 at the time, which made him the third youngest CEO in the Fortune 500.

Following news of Appleton’s accident, Micron, the largest memory chip maker in the US, suspended trading of its stock on Nasdaq. According to Dow Jones Newswires chip reporter Shara Tibken, Appleton’s death “comes at a time when the memory-chip market is going through a lot of changes. Prices have been falling and demand has been softening, largely due to PC and macro weakness, and some Asian rivals are struggling to stay in business. MU has been doing fairly well and is one of the stronger memory-chip makers, but it’s not immune to the market weakness. Meanwhile, [Micron] President Mark Durcan said last month he planned to retire at the end of August.”