Travis Barker's Near-Death Plane Crash Explained

In September 2008, Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker managed to survive what The New Zealand Herald called the "horror accident nobody should've survived."

Barker was on a small private jet that was taking off from Columbia, South Carolina, bound for Los Angeles. He'd been in town with Adam Goldstein, also known as DJ AM, performing at a college for their band TRV$DJAM. Both were on their way back to Los Angeles via Van Nuys. It was just several hours after the gig, which drew about 10,000 people in the audience. The two boarded a Learjet 60 that night with Barker's entourage, Chris Baker and Charles Still, said Los Angeles Times. The plane was piloted by Sarah Lemmon and first officer James Bland.

However, the aircraft never made it off the ground. As the plane began speeding down the runway for takeoff, air traffic controllers suddenly saw sparks. The Learjet then began to veer off the end of the runway. It crashed into a perimeter fence and crossed a roadway before slamming into some mounds of raised ground. Then it burst into what the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called a "significant fire."

The fire was so terrible NTSB investigators worried the plane's black box, which holds recordings of the pilot's communications and the aircraft's movements, wouldn't be recoverable or would still work. Four of the six passengers on the aircraft, as well as the two pilots, died in the crash. Barker and Goldstein suffered second- and third-degree burns. The NTSB investigated the crash and released its results in 2010.

The investigation

According to Billboard, the tires of the Learjet 60 were under-inflated. The jets' tires lose about two percent of their pressure every day, and if not checked and maintained, have to be changed every eight days. The last time these tires had been checked was three weeks earlier. As a result, all four tires exploded only seconds apart as the jet was speeding down the runway at 150 mph. The situation would only get worse as pieces of the tires hit the plane at incredibly high speeds, causing enough damage to the plane's hydraulic system that the brakes began to fail. Also, the thrust reversers, which are used to slow down the aircraft, were damaged. This added more power to the engines, so the plane sped up.

The pilot was relatively inexperienced, with just 35 hours of flying time on that model aircraft. Even though the jet was already going too fast to stay safely on the ground, the pilot attempted to abort the takeoff. The NTSB said for a plane like the Learjet 60, pilots are trained never to reject takeoff above 136 knots. However, for this flight, the decision to stop was made when the aircraft traveled at 144 knots. The high velocity, coupled with the loss of the thrust reversers and the additional engine power, caused the plane to race off the runway.

The crash profoundly changed Barker's life. He discussed his experience escaping the burning aircraft with Joe Rogan on the former Fear Factor host's Joe Rogan Experience podcast in 2019.

Travis Barker remembers fleeing the burning plane

"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 described, per The New Zealand Herald. "My whole body lit up. I had jet fuel in my whole body. I burped jet fuel for almost three months (after)," he continued. "I was ripping off my clothes because that's what my instinct told me to do ... but I was still on fire because I was soaked in jet fuel," he added.

Barker said that a bystander shouted at him to stop, drop, and roll, which helped extinguish the flames that had enveloped around 65 percent of his body. His foot was the only thing left on fire and nearly had to be amputated as a result. After the incident, Barker had to learn how to walk and perform daily functions again. He also suffered from psychological wounds, and at one point, wanted to commit suicide.

The drummer said that he refused to fly since the crash. Barker told ABC that he dropped out of Blink-182's Australian tour in 2013 due to his fear of getting on another aircraft. He traveled by boat for the band's European tour.

DJ AM died a year later from a drug overdose. In an interview with The New York Times, friends blamed his death on the trauma of the crash.