Today marks 14 years since Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker escaped a fiery plane crash involving a Learjet 60 on which he was traveling to California. The accident occurred while the private jet was attempting to depart from Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) in South Carolina, and left the musician badly injured.
The flight and aircraft in question
As established, the flight that Barker was onboard when it crashed originated at South Carolina’s Columbia Metropolitan Airport. This facility is located conveniently close to the Five Points area of Columbia, where Barker had just performed. Blink-182 were not active as a band at the time, with Barker instead touring with TRV$DJAM, a collaboration project between himself and Adam ‘DJ AM’ Goldstein.
The flight’s destination was Van Nuys (VNY) in southern California, a facility often used by Los Angeles-bound private aircraft. As well as Barker and Goldstein, two other passengers were onboard, namely Charles Monroe Still Jr and Chris Baker. They were joined by a two-person flight crew, giving a total occupancy of six.
The aircraft operating the flight was a Learjet 60 that bore the registration N999LJ. The rear-engined business jet was relatively new at the time, given that, according to the Aviation Safety Network, it had first flown in 2006. At 23:53 local time on September 19th, 2008, it began a takeoff roll that would prove to be its last.
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Disastrous takeoff attempt
While accelerating along Columbia Metropolitan Airport’s 2,622-meter-long runway 11, the plane’s occupants reportedly heard a loud bang. The pilots informed air traffic control, who could see sparks coming from the jet, that they would be aborting the departure, believing a burst tire to have been the cause of the noise.
The NTSB found that there had indeed been a tire burst due to inadequate maintenance and severe underinflation. Unfortunately, by the time the crew had opted to abort the takeoff, the jet had already accelerated beyond V1, the maximum speed at which a departure can safely be halted. As such, it overran the runway.
This caused it to crash through a fence at the end of the landing strip and career over the adjacent South Carolina Highway 302 before stopping on an embankment. At this point, it burst into flames, although Baker and Still had sadly already perished upon impact. The fire also tragically resulted in the deaths of the two pilots due to a combination of smoke inhalation and burns.
Fans left flowers outside Barker’s Fast Life fashion store in Los Angeles following the crash. Photo: Getty Images
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A lengthy recovery
Both Goldstein and Barker were able to escape the fiery wreckage, albeit with severe burn injuries. Barker spent a total of 11 weeks in hospital, during which time he underwent 16 surgeries, including skin grafts and blood transfusions. Goldstein was in hospital for just one week, and the pair performed together again in December 2008. Sadly, Goldstein died in August 2009 following a drug overdose.
Following Barker’s recovery, Blink-182 reunited in February 2009, having initially taken an ‘indefinite hiatus’ four years beforehand. The pop-punk outfit has remained active ever since, although, for much of this time, Barker didn’t fly when on tour, having developed PTSD due to the crash. According to TMZ, he eventually hit the skies again in August 2021, almost 13 years after the accident.
Sources: Aviation Safety Network, TMZ