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CEO of chip maker Micron dies in plane crash

By Rebecca Boone

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Feb. 4 2012 1:40 a.m. MST

Keliher said the remains of the pilot weren't immediately identifiable, but Appleton's wallet and other belongings were among the debris. She said the body was being fingerprinted by authorities.

The runway was dry and there were no indications that birds or weather caused the crash, Keliher said. Investigators planned to look for any evidence of equipment failure, pilot error or other problems.

Airport spokeswoman Patti Miller said the aircraft was a fixed-wing prop plane Lancair, which is built from kits.

Planes like the Lancair have caught the attention of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is in the midst of a study of their safety. Last year, the agency investigated 222 experimental and amateur-built plane accidents in which 67 people were killed. More than half involved planes that were bought used rather than having been built by the current owner.

In 2004, Appleton sustained a punctured lung, head injuries, ruptured disk and broken bones after his stunt plane crashed in the desert east of Boise.

He didn't immediately reveal the severity of injuries he sustained in that crash, and at the time a Micron spokesman described Appleton as only sustaining some "bumps and bruises." But in 2006 a corporate governance expert began questioning disclosures about the crash.

Appleton's death came one week after the company's president and chief operating officer, D. Mark Durcan, announced plans to retire in August. Mark W. Adams, Micron's vice president of worldwide sales, was named to succeed Durcan.

News of Appleton's death sparked an outpouring of homage from Idaho leaders, with Otter lauding him as a champion and visionary businessman who "understood the value as well as the cost of excellence."

Idaho's congressional delegation also mourned Appleton's death, with Sen. Mike Crapo and Reps. Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador saying that Appleton was to Idaho what the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was to America.

Appleton was the face of Micron for most Idahoans. The company was instrumental in Idaho's tech boom and is known for charitable giving, recently donating $13 million for a new building at Boise State University.

Appleton had his business administration degree from Boise State fresh in hand in 1983 when he took a graveyard job at the new high-tech startup, Micron. His starting wage on the chip fabrication line was just $4.46 an hour, but it wasn't long before Appleton was promoted, and promoted again — 11 times in all.

By 1991 he was the youngest-ever chief of a Fortune 500 company, serving as president and chief operating officer of Micron. In 1994, he was appointed to the position of chairman, chief executive officer and president, though he dropped the president title in 2007. He is survived by his wife, Dalynn, and four children.

Appleton owned several different types of aircraft, piloted in air shows and frequently flew the planes in the skies over Idaho. He had a penchant for other adventures too: In 2006, he won the 20-car Baja Challenge Class of the SCORE Tecate Baja 1000, completing the 1,047-mile run from Enseneda to La Paz in 25 hours and 25 minutes, 30 minutes ahead of his nearest competitor.

At the time, Appleton said he wasn't worried about putting himself and his executive team behind the wheels for the pounding, often brutal race over rough and remote terrain.

"I don't know what could be worse than being in the memory business for risk-taking," he said. "If we were in some stable, monopolistic business, I'd probably get objections from my executive staff about doing this, but they're all dying to go."

Micron shares were up 23 cents at $7.95 Friday before trading was halted in the early afternoon for the announcement. The company's shares have traded between $3.97 and $11.95 over the past year.

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Associated Press correspondent Todd Dvorak and reporters Nick Jesdanun and Joan Lowy contributed to this report.

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