Stars Who Have Survived Plane Crashes

One of the scariest things that many people will encounter in their lifetime is undoubtedly a crash (of any kind). While there are an estimated 3,287 deaths per day as a result of a car crash (via The Wandering RV), fewer will die in the sky. According to Statista, death occurrences in a plane crash are far less — under a thousand a year. In 2020, only 137 people were killed in plane crashes — but that also happened to be the year of COVID-19 when there was far less travel. In 2019, at least 289 died in a crash.

Despite the statistics, crashes do not discriminate against celebrities, and a handful have died in a plane crash. Just think of Aaliyah, who was killed in the Bahamas in 2001 (via Billboard). The singer was riding in a twin-engine Cessna when the plane went down just 200 feet from the runway. Six people, including the singer, died instantly, while three others survived the initial impact, but later died from their injuries.

Below is a list of celebrities who had scary encounters in the air, but luckily lived to tell the tale. Keep reading to find out which celebrities have survived plane crashes.

Patrick Swayze's 2000 crash in Arizona

Patrick Swayze is just one celeb who had a near brush with death when he was traveling by plane in 2000. According to Entertainment Weekly, the "Dirty Dancing" star was piloting an aircraft when things went awry. The actor traveled from Van Nuys, California to Las Vegas, Nevada when his plane went down just outside Phoenix, Arizona, with authorities finding the 1978 Cessna abandoned on a dirt road. Air Safe reports that the actor "heard a loud sound" when he was at 13,000 feet, and his dogs began barking, so he assumed he had lost pressurization. He thought an airport was below him to land, but it turned out to be a housing development. Swayze landed in the development in Prescott Valley, Arizona, hitting a few streetlights and a stop sign as the plane rode through an intersection.

A few days after the crash, AP News reported that three people were charged with lying after they allegedly helped Swayze remove wine and beer from the aircraft before driving him to a local hotel. Soon after, his publicist denied that Swayze had alcohol on board. The actor shared with CNN that he wasn't even aware of hitting objects during the crash-landing: "I was so focused on — I'm so focused on putting it on the ground safely that I didn't — I don't even remember hitting anything."

Travis Barker's crash gave him a fear of flying

Travis Barker was one of the lucky ones in a plane crash that killed four others. According to Billboard, Barker had just wrapped up an event in Columbia, South Carolina in 2008 when he boarded a Learjet 60. The plane was traveling at 150 mph when all four tires exploded. The pilot attempted to abort takeoff, but it was too late. The aircraft crossed a highway, "hit an embankment and was engulfed in flames." Barker survived the crash, but the two pilots, Barker's bodyguard, and his assistant died in the horrific crash.

In an interview on "The Joe Rogan Experience" in 2019, Barker recalled the ordeal and said that he shouldn't have survived. "When I jumped through the emergency exit when the plane blew up, I was in such a hurry to exit the plane I jumped right into the jet, which is full of fuel," he said. "My whole body lit up. I had jet fuel in my whole body. I burped jet fuel for almost three months [after]." He had burns on 65 percent of his body and underwent 27 surgeries after the accident. Barker has not ridden on a plane since the incident. 

"I don't fly ... I haven't flown since my accident," he said. "I'll take the Queen Mary 2 [cruise ship] to Europe, but I would rather be in a raft than plummeting into the ocean."

Harrison Ford's multiple plane crashes

Harrison Ford is another celebrity who was at the helm of his aircraft when it went down. In 2015, The New York Times reported that the actor was riding in a World War II training plane when it crashed onto a golf course in Venice, California just moments after taking off from the Santa Monica airport. The outlet shared that Ford had engine trouble when he took off. The Los Angeles Police Department noted that the crash occurred at "medium to high impact on the grass at Penmar Golf Course." 

Paramedics took Ford to Cedars-Sinai hospital for his injuries. In a since-deleted tweet by his son, Ben Ford told fans that his father was "battered" but okay. "He is every bit the man you would think he is," Ben said (via The New York Times), adding, "He is an incredibly strong man." According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the cause of the crash was a mechanical problem with a carburetor part that led to engine failure.

Believe it or not, the 2015 crash isn't the only one that Harrison has been in. Air Safe shares that the actor nearly flew into a 747 in 2017. In 2000, a gust of wind took Harrison's plane off the runway in Lincoln, Nebraska. And in 1999, Ford was training on a helicopter when it made an emergency landing in a dry riverbed in Santa Clarita, California, before tipping over. Luckily, he's lived to tell the tale!

John McCain's plane crashes in the Navy

The late John McCain is another public figure who has not had the best luck when it comes to flying. According to USA Today, the politician was involved in three separate plane crashes over the course of his life. All three instances came when he was a member of the Navy, but there was one in particular that led to a series of horrible events for the political figure. In 1960, he crashed his AD-6 Skyraider in Corpus Christi Bay, Texas. The late senator crashed into the water, barely managing to escape and come back up to the surface. In 1965, his T-2 trainer jet lost power. Luckily, he ejected at 1,000 feet while the plane crashed into trees.

McCain's most devastating crash came in 1967. He was flying over Hanoi when the right wing of his plane blew off after being hit by a bomb, causing him to crash. North Vietnam held McCain as a prisoner of war for 5.5 years (via US News). "I pulled the ejection handle and was knocked unconscious by the force of the ejection — the air speed was about 500 knots," McCain recalled of the crash. "I didn't realize it at the moment, but I had broken my right leg around the knee, my right arm in three places, and my left arm." 

Of course, McCain enjoyed a successful career as a politician before dying in 2018, after doctors diagnosed him with an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Sandra Bullock's Jackson Hole mishap

Sandra Bullock is many things, including an Oscar winner, mother, and A-list celeb. But most people aren't aware that she also happens to be a plane crash survivor, as well. In 2000, Bullock was onboard a plane that was traveling to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. 

The Guardian shares that the actor and her boyfriend at the time, Bob Schneider, headed to the tourist hot spot to enjoy a little rest and relaxation before the holidays. When the plane landed at the airport, it skidded off the runway in what appeared to be a pilot error. The pilot reportedly mistook a set of lights as he was distracted by the hazardous conditions. Luckily, all people on board survived the crash, but the plane had a decent amount of damage.

In 2001, Bullock told Entertainment Weekly that she had another plane incident while flying on a private plane with Harry Connick Jr. to promote their movie "Hope Floats." "I ran to get my bag, turned around, and all I remember is this flash of light and then my glasses went flying," Bullock recalled. "I had no idea what had happened. And Harry just said, 'Nobody say anything. She just ran into the wing.' There was blood everywhere. I had cut the skin above my eye open." She wasn't even able to speak to the press because of a black eye.

Ed Robertson is lucky to be alive

Investigators say that Ed Robertson, who gained fame from The Barenaked Ladies, is lucky to be alive after a scary plane crash. According to the Toronto Star, the singer, his wife, and two of their friends crashed in a private plane in Bancroft, Canada. The Cessna 206 float-plane was attempting to take off from a lake when it lost speed and crashed into a wooded area. The plane landed on its nose, and the passengers escaped through a window. The impact also caused gas to leak, creating a scary situation. Robertson was piloting the aircraft when it went down.

A deputy fire chief in the area where the plane crashed said that the group was all very fortunate to get out with no injuries. "They're all really lucky to get out of there. I think there was somebody on their side," he said. According to TRNTO, the cause of the crash was neither pilot error nor mechanical error. 

During a 10-month span, Roberson was involved in the plane crash, lost his mom to cancer, and his bandmate, Steven Page, had a very public drug bust, causing Robertson to think about quitting his band. "[But] not for very long. The bottom line is: I love to do this. I love to get up onstage and perform these songs. I love the new songs and I love the old songs. We're definitely in a new chapter, but we're bringing the whole book with us," he shared.

Barack Obama's thankfully very minor crash

Barack Obama is yet another politician to be involved in a plane crash. And like everyone else mentioned in this piece, the former president is lucky that his crash was minor. Air Safe reports that the crash occurred while Obama was out on the campaign trail in 2008.

According to the outlet, Obama was on a Gulfstream 2 at Chicago's Midway Airport with a few members of his campaign staff and a few Secret Service agents. They had just returned home from a trip to Nevada, where Obama was campaigning for an election that he would ultimately win. The plane had landed safely on the ground when the left wingtip of the aircraft that Obama was in hit against the right wingtip of a Cessna 208 that was parked at the airport. 

Luckily, the incident was so minor that nobody even noticed it until after it occurred.

Adam Goldstein reportedly had survivor's guilt

In case you don't recall, Adam Goldstein also happened to be on board the fatal plane crash with Travis Barker that ultimately killed four others. Goldstein, who was known to fans as "DJ AM," was traveling with Barker on tour when the plane crashed a few seconds after takeoff in Columbia, South Carolina (via Live 5 News). The plane hit an embankment and went up in flames. Later, it was determined to be the result of a combination of faulty tires and pilot error. Like Barker, Goldstein suffered severe burns.

In an interview with Today, the popular DJ recalled the fiery crash, saying he was asleep when it happened and woke up to Barker screaming. "In the ambulance I was in so much pain," he shared. "It sounds weird, but they turn the heat on full blast, so your body doesn't go into hypothermia. On burns that's excruciating."

A year later, in 2009, Goldstein relapsed and died from a drug overdose. His lawyer, Matthew McNicholas, told People that the guilt from the crash might have played a role in the fatal overdose. "There's no doubt in my mind that the injuries Adam suffered in the plane crash caused last Friday's events," he told the outlet. "Without the plane crash, we'd still be enjoying his musical talents. He lived with the trauma every day."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Howard Hughes crashed into someone's bedroom

Howard Hughes is another name on this list who has survived more than one plane crash. The film producer's most famous crash came in 1946. The Los Angeles Times reports that the billionaire took a prototype of an XF-11 out for a spin. The flight didn't go smoothly, and the plane came crashing down in Beverly Hills, causing Hughes to be critically injured. On his way down, Hughes tried to land on a golf course, but he came up about 300 feet short. According to the outlet, Hughes wreaked havoc on the way down, crashing into the upstairs bedroom of Jerry and Elizabeth De Kamp and narrowly missing them.

The plane also went through some trees before crashing into the home of Charles A. Meyer. The debris from the aircraft hit several other homes in the surrounding area. When it crashed, the plane burst into flames, but luckily for Hughes, Marine Sgt. William Lloyd Durkin and Captain James Guston were nearby and able to pull him from the plane. 

At the hospital, doctors only gave Hughes a 50/50 chance of surviving his injuries, and he did. PBS shares that the propeller failed, causing the aircraft to lose power and crash.

Clint Eastwood's unexpected swim

Long before Clint Eastwood was making movies, the actor had a dramatic brush with death in a World War II bomber plane. "I was catching a free ride from Seattle down to Almeda," he recalled in an interview with The Telegraph, adding that he had been a soldier at the time. "It was stormy and we went down off of Point Reyes, California, in the Pacific. I found myself in the water swimming a few miles towards the shore. I remember thinking, 'Well, 21 is not as long as a person wants to live.'"

The actor was in the water for hours, using a life raft to get back to land and trying to find his pilot. As Eastwood told his biographer, Boris Zmijewsky, he was also surrounded by jellyfish. "I thought I might die," he admitted. "But then I thought, other people have made it through these things before. I kept my eyes on the lights on shore and kept swimming." Once the future actor-director emerged from the water, an exhausted and wet Eastwood had to walk five miles to reach the nearest highway. Luckily, he and his pilot were both uninjured.

Christie Brinkley's skiing accident

Christie Brinkley nearly died in a helicopter crash in 1994 while skiing near Ophir, Colorado. As AP News reported at the time, the model's whole group was stranded "12,800 feet up a mountain." They waited for five exhausting hours before a rescue helicopter hoisted them to safety, where Brinkley's injuries could be evaluated. 

"This happened 25 years ago today and not a day goes by that I have not counted my blessing for being alive," Brinkley posted on her Instagram in 2019, marking the anniversary of the crash. "I know for a fact that tomorrow is not a guarantee and that each day is a gift and an opportunity to make sure that everybody we love knows it!"

The accident made an impact on her long-term physical health, as she revealed in a later post. "The pain in my hip got a little bit worse each year," Brinkley wrote. "12 years ago I was told it needed to be replaced but the surgery was daunting! And I had things to do!" Finally, she had a hip replacement in November 2020 and was "dancing in [her] kitchen by New [Year's] Eve." The model continued, "I found the best Doctor for my circumstances and voila! I can't tell you how happy I am to have done this. Now I can focus on getting back in shape and rebuilding my strength."

Paula Abdul's hidden pain

Paula Abdul was at the peak of her career in 1992 when a flight from St. Louis, Missouri to Denver, Colorado went wrong.

In 2019, the singer opened up about the terrifying accident at the opening of her Las Vegas residency, per People. "It all happened when I boarded a seven-seater plane and an hour into the flight one of the engines blew up and the right wing caught fire and everything went black," she told her audience. "I woke up in the hospital only to find that I had crushed my cervical spine, leaving me partially paralyzed." The severe pain of her injuries led Abdul to hide from the public for years. "For the first time in my life, doubt outweighed my spirit," the former "American Idol" judge continued. "I disappeared for seven years, endured 15 cervical spine surgeries with the top doctors from around the world with the hopes that they'd put me back together again."

Although some have questioned whether the flight and subsequent crash actually took place due to the lack of any public records, Abdul insists that she really was injured. "I went through all of that, mostly, privately. Back then, we didn't have tabloids like we do now," she told Music News in 2018. "We didn't have the extent of paparazzi ... so you were able to contain some information."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. escaped a burning wreck

The NASCAR driver Dale Earnheardt Jr. was flying with his wife and daughter when his plane crashed over Tennessee in 2019. Safety regulators later judged that the crash was caused by the pilots, whose failure to slow down "resulted in a bounced landing, a loss of airplane control, a landing gear collapse, and a runway excursion" (via CNN). According to the Tennessean, the family had to escape an aircraft that had gone up in flames after it veered off the airport's runway.

Luckily, no one was severely hurt. "We are truly blessed that all on board escaped with no serious injuries, including our daughter, our two pilots and our dog Gus," Earnheardt told fans on Twitter, thanking "everyone who has lifted us up with phone calls, messages and prayer since." The driver, whose father famously died when his vehicle crashed, went on to compete in a race just one week later, despite admitting in another tweet that he had suffered severe bruising.

Allen Collins and the tragic end of Lynyrd Skynyrd

One tragic plane crash in 1977 went down in rock history after three members of Jacksonville band Lynyrd Skynyrd died: lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Stevie Gaines, and backup singer and Gaines' sister, Cassie Gaines.

According to the National Transport Safety Board's report, the plane ran out of fuel, which led to a "total loss of power from both engines due to crew inattention to fuel supply." It eventually went down in Mississippi, per AP News, where you can now find a monument paying tribute to the band. Their road manager Dean Kilpatrick, the pilot Walter McCreary, and the co-pilot William Gray also didn't make it.

The guitarist Allen Collins was one of the survivors, who were pulled out of the wreckage by local volunteers. "I found someone on the ground alive. When I walked to the other side of the plane, I tripped on another person," one rescuer later told the Clarion Ledger, describing the gory scene. Although Collins went on to form another band, his string of bad luck sadly didn't end there, per the Los Angeles Times: in 1986, the guitarist was left paralyzed by a car accident that killed his girlfriend, and he died from pneumonia in 1990. He was only 37 at the time.