One the biggest John Denver hits was the song “Leaving On a Jet Plane”, and curiously, this tune is related to how he left us, too soon.
Denver died on October 12, 1997, when his experimental Rutan Long-EZ plane, aircraft registration number N555JD, crashed into Monterey Bay near Pacific Grove, California, while making a series of touch-and-go landings at the nearby Monterey Peninsula Airport. He was the only occupant of the aircraft. Identification was not possible using dental records; only his fingerprints could confirm that the pilot was him The official cause of death was multiple blunt force trauma resulting from the crash.
He was a pilot with over 2,700 hours of experience and had pilot ratings for single-engine land and sea, multi-engine land, glider, and instrument. He also held a type rating in his Learjet. He had recently purchased the Long-EZ aircraft, made by someone else from a kit, and had taken a half-hour checkout flight with the aircraft the day before the accident.
Denver was not legally permitted to fly at the time of the accident. In previous years, Denver had a number of drunk driving arrests. In 1996, nearly a year before the accident, the Federal Aviation Administration learned that Denver had failed to maintain sobriety by failing to refrain entirely from alcohol, and revoked his medical certification. However, the accident was not influenced by alcohol use, as an autopsy found no sign of alcohol or other drugs in Denver’s body.
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