BOISE, Idaho — The chief executive and chairman of the Boise-based memory chip maker Micron died Friday morning when a small, experimental fixed-wing plane he was piloting crashed at the Boise airport, the company said.
Micron spokesman Dan Francisco confirmed Steve Appleton's death in a release, and trading in Micron stocks has been halted.
Appleton, a professional stunt plane pilot and former motocross racer, was the only one in the plane when it crashed at the Boise airport.
In a prepared statement, Micron's board of directors said, "Steve's passion and energy left an indelible mark on Micron, the Idaho community and the technology industry at large."
Micron Technology Inc. is one of the world's leading providers of advanced semiconductor solutions. Through its worldwide operations, Micron manufactures and markets a full range of DRAM, NAND and NOR flash memory.
Appleton, 51, started on the factory floor of Micron in 1983 and worked his way up. In 1991, he was appointed president and chief operating officer of Micron and in 1994, he was appointed to the position of chairman, chief executive officer and president. He assumed his current position in 2007. Micron is one of Idaho's largest employers.
Ada County dispatch Friday received reports of a small plane that was on fire before it landed. Airport spokeswoman Patti Miller said the airplane is a fixed wing single engine Lancair.
The Lancair is built from kits, and others like it have design characteristics that allow the planes to fly much faster than most small planes.
Accidents involving amateur-built 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 the accidents involved planes that were bought used rather than having been built by the current owner.
The study is scheduled to be finished this spring, after which the board is expected to hold a public hearing on the issue.
An FAA analysis found that the planes have experienced fatal accident rates substantially higher than other small, personal use planes, including other types of planes made from kits, the advisory said.
In 2010, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a safety advisory to pilots because the planes are prone to stalling out during slow-speed operations close to the ground.
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.
It's not the first time Appleton has been in a small plane crash, and questions have been raised in the past about whether the head of a large corporation should be engaging in that hobby. On July 8, 2004, Appleton sustained a punctured lung, head injuries, ruptured disk and broken bones after his stunt plane crashed in the desert east of Boise.
Appleton didn't immediately reveal the severity of injuries he sustained in that crash, and in 2006 a corporate governance expert began questioning disclosures about the crash.
Appleton owned several different types of aircraft 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 late Friday in 25 hours and 25 minutes, 30 minutes ahead of his nearest competitor.
The National Transportation Safety Board will hold a briefing on the crash at the Boise airport at 2 p.m.