TIL It’s believed that the plane crash that killed John Denver on Oct 12 1997 was due in part to him running out of fuel during flight, being unable to see his fuel gauge, and a design flaw in accessing his reserve fuel tank switch.

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Other interesting tidbits about Denver: *Denver was a prime candidate to be the “first civilian in space” on the Ill fated 1986 challenger flight (which exploded shortly after takeoff) *At the time of his crash his pilots license was revoked due to his troubles with drinking, though it was determined he had not been intoxicated at the time of the crash. *He was an experienced pilot with over 2700 hrs of flight time at the time his plane crashed..


> His newly purchased amateur-built Rutan aircraft had an unusual fuel tank selector valve handle configuration. The handle had originally been intended by the plane’s designer to be between the pilot’s legs. **The builder instead put it behind the pilot’s left shoulder. The fuel gauge was also placed behind the pilot’s seat and was not visible to the person at the controls.** Excuse me what the fuck?!!? What goddamned use is a fuel gauge the pilot can’t see? Not to mention the fuel selector value being back there, too? (though for practical purposes, I have no idea in what universe it makes sense to ever have the valve set to anything other than “both” at all times) So the builder is a complete jackass here. But also c’mon John Denver. If you’re a pilot with 2,700 hours, surely you’d recognize the important of a goddamned *visible* fuel gauge!!! Why would you buy a plane with such a shitty design!?


Such an amazing songwriter.


Not a design flaw. From the wiki article: > The handle had originally been ***intended by the plane’s designer to be between the pilot’s legs***. The builder instead put it behind the pilot’s left shoulder. This was a builder error compounded by pilot complacency. Prudence dictates that when a pilot flies a new-to-them aircraft they get some training. And by “some training” I mean flying with an instructor familiar with the aircraft, not 30 minutes with another pilot. Another poster mentioned Denver’s 2700 hours of experience. When flying a new-to-them aircraft the amount of experience a pilot has in other aircraft is irrelevant, especially when it comes to an experimental aircraft with unknown and undocumented flight characteristics. In some cases, it can even be detrimental. If the plane does not respond to control inputs like other aircraft the pilot has flown then his/her instincts could get them killed.


Partially a poorly designed plane. Having the emergency fuel supply switch over his left shoulder is a bad idea. Something like that needs to be on the instrument panel where it can be easier to get to. Partially John Denver’s fault. He took with him a pillow to support his lower back. The extra distance the pillow provided meant he couldn’t get to the emergency fuel switch at all.