John Denver, a classic American singer-songwriter
whose words and later political deeds touched millions of
fans and others alike, died tragically on Sunday 12th October
1997 at the premature age of just 53.
Denver, a lifelong aviation fanatic, was taken from us whilst
partaking in one of his great passions, namely piloting his
own small aircraft.
The terrible irony of such a passing, a man dying whilst enjoying
his passion, was further deepened when fans gathered and radio
stations played his music to remember him, they recalled the
lyrics and title of one of his best-known and loved songs,
"Leaving on a jet plane", whereupon the singer is
left mourning the absence of his loved one. And over 25 years
on his family, friends and ever loyal fans where left with
the same bereftness and longing as the narrator of the song
But Denver never allowed his love of flying get in the way
of anything and he was certainly a fearless though never reckless
aviator, witnessed by the fact that he'd already had two lucky
escapes from the clutches of death whilst pursuing his love
affair with aviation travel.
He'd already walked unscathed from a runway accident in 1989
when the 1931 bi-plane he was taxiing down the runway in readiness
for ascension suddenly flipped and ended up facing the wrong
way down the runway. It was a relatively minor accident but
one that could've resulted in the worst circumstances, but
fortunately Denver walked away without a scratch.
And his love of flight extended beyond earthly binds, as
he was a fully trained astronaught and was in training to
be on-board the doomed Space Shuttle Challenger on its tragic
1986 flight. But a simple twist of fate and Denver couldn't
come aboard and so he was spared, though only temporarily
as it tragically turned out.
Exact causes are very seldom easy to find in sudden deaths
like aircraft fatalities such as Denver's and this case is
no exception as no-one not even the coroner, crash investigators
nor the traffic controllers he was in contact with until seconds
before his death, can definitely ascertain what occurred in
the tragic seconds at around 5.27 PM on the fateful day.
What is known is that Denver, a highly qualified and experienced
pilot, was practicing manoeuvres in a home-built experimental
two-seater plane that he'd bought just the previous day over
the Californian pacific coast near to where he had a home
in Montery Bay.
There are two theories has to how the tragic events unfolded,
but what is certain is that Denver was unfamiliar with some
of the controls of his new aircraft and despite his great
experience as a pilot made a fatal error in his final seconds
by either, depending on who you believe, misreading the fuel
gauge and believed that the aircraft had enough fuel to continue
its flight when in actual fact it had none, or a design quirk
added by the plane's original owner when he built the plane
built fooled John into misreading the control panel thus causing
the fatal error.
Either way the plane hurtled into the Pacific and the world
lost one of its most favourite singers.