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2008 Learjet crash that nearly killed Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker

On September 19, 2008, a private jet carrying musician Travis Barker from Blink-182 and DJ AM (Adam Goldstein) crashed during takeoff from Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) in South Carolina.

The crash killed four of the six people on board, including both pilots. Barker and Goldstein survived but suffered severe burns and other injuries.  

The 2008 South Carolina Learjet 60 crash raised serious concerns about charter aviation safety and changed how operators approach flight safety

Flight, airport, and aircraft involved

Barker and Goldstein were flying from South Carolina to Van Nuys (VNY) in Southern California, following a performance in Columbia as a duo going by the title TRV$DJAM. Also on board were Barker’s security guard, Charles Monroe Still Jr, and his personal assistant, Chris Baker. The addition of the two-person flight crew brought the total number of occupants to six.

The flight was operated by Global Exec Aviation, a charter company based in Long Beach, California. 

At the time of the accident, Columbia Metropolitan Airport was a medium-sized airport with two runways at 2,622 meters (8,601 feet) and 2,439 meters (8,001 feet) long, plus a modern air traffic control (ATC) tower. The accident occurred on the longest available runway, Runway 11. 

The aircraft involved was a Learjet 60, a popular mid-size business jet known for its good safety record and ability to accommodate up to eight passengers. The plane was relatively new, having made its first flight in 2006. 

Nordroden / Shutterstock 

Accident unfolding

The accident occurred during takeoff, at 23:53 local time on September 19th, 2008. As the plane was gaining speed, the individuals onboard allegedly heard a loud noise. The pilots promptly notified ATC about the sound, and the controllers stated that they could see sparks emanating from the jet. The crew decided to abandon takeoff, suspecting that a tire blowout had caused the noise. 
 
However, it was already too late, as the jet had accelerated beyond V1 speed (the maximum speed at which an aircraft must continue the takeoff, even in the event of an engine failure) and overshot the runway. The aircraft then collided with localizer antennas and a perimeter fence before bursting into flames. 

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation, the aircraft failed to gain sufficient speed during takeoff and overran the runway. NTSB also determined that the tire burst was a result of insufficient maintenance and severe under-inflation. The accident’s probable cause was the pilot’s failure to properly maintain the aircraft’s airspeed during takeoff, leading to the aircraft’s inability to become airborne. 

Sadly, Chris Baker and Charles Monroe Still Jr lost their lives upon collision, while the two pilots, Captain Sarah Lemmon (31) and first officer James Bland (52), died due to a combination of burns and smoke inhalation caused by the fire. 

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) / Wikimedia

Recovery of Travis Barker and Adam Goldstein

Travis Barker and Adam Goldstein suffered severe burns and other injuries in the crash. Barker underwent 16 surgeries and skin grafts and spent several months in the hospital, having sustained burns covering around 65% of his body. Despite suffering from third-degree burns on his arms and head, Goldstein spent only one week in the hospital.  

The crash also had a profound emotional impact on Barker, who later stated that it was a “defining moment” that led him to focus more on his family and personal life. During touring after the accident, Barker refrained from flying due to post-traumatic stress disorder. As reported by TMZ, in August 2021, he did board a plane again, marking almost 13 years since the incident.

Sadly, Adam Goldstein passed away in August 2009 due to a drug overdose in New York City, at the age of just 36. 

At the time of the accident, Barker was not touring with Blink-182 as they were on hiatus. However, Blink-182 reunited in 2009 and the band remains active to this day. 

Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

The lessons learned, and safety measures adopted by airlines 

The Travis Barker plane crash proved to be a wake-up call and led to multiple changes in flight safety procedures. Some of the measures consequently adopted by operators include: 

Increased emphasis on on-demand flight crew training and education, particularly in the areas of takeoff and landing procedures. 

Improved communication between pilots and ATC to ensure that aircraft receive timely and accurate information. 

Enhanced safety regulations for charter and private flights, including more rigorous safety inspections and maintenance requirements. 

Greater use of technology to improve aircraft safety, including advanced avionics systems and better runway lighting and marking.

Find out more about Travis Barker’s recovery from the near-fatal plane crash:

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