'The Entire Wing Exploded in a Fireball': Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Leonardo DiCaprio & More Celebs Share Their Scary Plane Stories
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
The NASCAR star, along with his wife and young daughter, escaped without injuries from a fiery small plane crash in Elizabethton, Tennessee.
“Amy and I want to thank everyone who has lifted us up with phone calls, messages and prayer since last Thursday,” Earnhardt wrote on Instagram in the aftermath. “We are truly blessed that all on board escaped with no serious injuries, including our daughter, our two pilots and our dog Gus.”
Diplo was on his way to perform in Columbus and Minneapolis when his “jet window just cracked open” mid-flight. He wrote in an Instagram post, complete with a photo of the very damaged windshield, “Dear Columbus and Minneapolis, my jet window just cracked open and the pilots are wearing masks so not sure ill make my shows tonight but they left the wifi on so I’m just going to sit in the back and smoke toad venom and Vlog. I just bought this cool vest in Dallas at a thrift store…..Also I never told you this but I might by gay…” The 40-year-old made reference to a scene from the film, Almost Famous, in which a character abruptly announces, “I’m gay!” during a particularly turbulent flight.
Diplo eventually updated his fans, saying “Update: we landed and no one died I still might be gay but I’m definitely not going to tye die anymore jets.” (He had recently tie dyed his personal jet.)
At least the star learned something from the experience. In a follow-up post, he said, “Yesterday I learned that life is fragile so I started a skin care routine. Also if your [sic] thinking of dating me or even a one night stand you should hit me up soon cause you never know I could be eaten by an alligator or something on one of my weird tours.”
Brandi, Tish & Miley Cyrus
On a July 2019 episode of her podcast, Brandi recalled a scary landing the family experienced en route to that year’s Glastonbury music festival in England.
“Out of nowhere, as we’re landing, we swoop back up and like bank to the left, and turn and like, it feels crazy,” she said, adding that her mom and sister, who are nervous flyers, “just start losing their minds.”
“So we’re sitting here thinking like what in the world is going on,” she said.
After a few tense moments, Brandi said that the flight crew eventually explained that there was “no need to panic, but somebody was in our lane in the sky, and we were going to hit them, so we had to come back up and move.”
“That’s terrifying to think about,” Brandi said. “Like, you’re going like what? 400 miles an hour? And a plane is like, in your lane, like that’s insane.”
But her story didn’t end there.
“After like 10 minutes of circling us around, they go back to land again — same frickin’ thing happens,” Brandi said, revealing that this time there was a plane in the way on the runway. “They had to swoop back up and bank again.”
Brandi said that her mom started crying after the second mishap, and tearfully expressed fear for the youngest Cyrus daughter, who wasn’t with them on the trip: “She’s like, ‘if we die, Noah’s alone!’ and like freaking out.”
Apparently, the flight crew told them that it was hard to land because so many planes were arriving for the festival.
Though the encounter sounds harrowing, thankfully, the group eventually landed safely and made it to the festival.
On Instagram, Brinkley shared the April 18, 1994, issue of PEOPLE, which she was featured on the cover of, writing, “This happened 25 years ago today and not a day goes by that I have not counted my blessing for being alive.”
Heli-skiing is when people are transported by helicopter to remote peaks rather than using a typical ski-lift after each run down the slope.
But as Brinkley’s helicopter approached a high peak, it took an unexpected sharp turn and began a 200-ft. tumble on a 40-degree incline. At some point, Brinkley recalled, she began thinking, “I am going to die. Right now? Like this? A ski trip? Today?”
The model eventually fell out of the helicopter’s open door, landing in the snow on her back. Once she landed, Brinkley said she squinted up at the sunlight and thought, “I am alive! God!”
Reeves channeled his quick-thinking Speed character during a recent real-life travel emergency. After his flight from San Francisco to Burbank, California, was forced to make an emergency landing in Bakersfield in March 2019, the actor and his fellow passengers were stranded at a closed airport as they waited on transportation to Los Angeles.
Freelance cartoonist Brian Rea captured the emergency on social media, tracking Reeves’ movements and calls to action in a hilariously epic Instagram Story as the actor helped explain the possible transportation options to fellow passengers.
A 2-hour van ride to L.A. was the fastest solution at that point, and Reeves proved himself to be the ideal road trip companion. The Matrix actor kept the group entertained by reading out facts about Bakersfield and playing country music native to the area, which Rea luckily caught on camera.
He may play a superhero, but even the Aquaman star isn’t immune to scary plane experiences. In early March 2019, Momoa’s plane was forced to make an emergency landing shortly after taking off from Palm Springs, California.
The 39-year-old actor shared a video of himself on his Instagram Stories in which he explained, “We got ourselves a slight delay.”
“Half an hour out of Palm Springs and the plane wanted to start a fire,” he said. “So, uh, yeah. Good old fire department, gotta love them. Looks like we’re driving.”
Momoa shared a video of the fire department but later shared the plane was back up and running again.
Jennifer Aniston & Courteney Cox
The real-life Friends were en route to Mexico to celebrate Aniston’s 50th birthday in February 2019 when the star’s private plane was forced to circle back and make an emergency landing in Ontario, California.
“I’m not afraid of flying at all, my dad was a pilot, but I was really scared because when we were taking off, we heard this really loud bang,” Cox told Extra. “I was like, ‘Oh, that sounds like we should probably check that tire.’ ”
Cox continued, “There was no tire at all, there was no wheel. Luckily, there are two wheels on each side and two in the front.” The actress added that while they were “in the air for four hours, burning off fuel,” she could only think of what the landing would be like — but ultimately, “It was a really smooth landing,” she shared.
The airport closed down so their plane could land, a source told PEOPLE. The actresses and their friends waited at the airport before boarding a new flight to Mexico.
The rapper’s private jet made an emergency landing after its tires blew out on takeoff in August 2018. The flight was scheduled to go from New Jersey to London, but ended up spending five hours circling airports to burn off fuel before safely landing in New Windsor, New York.
“I f—ing hate flying,” the star told TMZ after finally getting back on the ground. “We just heard the tire pop. And then, I don’t know if it was smoke or whatever, [came in], and we were like, ‘S—. This is not good at all.’ ”
“I just put everybody in a big group text [to] tell them I love them, just in case,” he said about how he handled being in flight after the malfunction. “I just did it all in one. You know, my family and everybody and my friends. This was before anybody knew [about the plane], I was just like, ‘Hey, guys, I love you.’ I didn’t want to f—ing freak people out and then be stuck in the air.”
“I’m alive, man, I’m ready to party,” Malone added.
In December 2015, the Driving Miss Daisy actor was flying to Texas to shoot a segment for the series The Story of God when his plane blew a tire during takeoff, forcing it to make an emergency landing at a Mississippi airport.
The actor was unharmed, and no injuries were reported.
“Sometimes things don’t go as planned and a tire blew on takeoff which caused other problems,” Freeman, then 78, said in a statement to PEOPLE.
“But thanks to my excellent pilot Jimmy Hobson we landed safely without a scratch,” he added. “I cannot say the same about my plane. I appreciate the concern and prayers for our safety.”
The daredevil actor is no stranger to near-death experiences: “If a cat has nine lives, I think I’ve used a few,” DiCaprio told WIRED in December 2015. From a shark attack and skydiving accident to a near plane crash, the adrenaline junkie shared his tales of his extreme adventuring with the outlet.
“I was in business class, and an engine blew up in front of my eyes,” he recalled. “I was sitting there looking out at the wing, and the entire wing exploded in a fireball.”
He continued: “They shut all the engines off for a couple of minutes, so you’re just sitting there gliding with absolutely no sound, and nobody in the plane was saying anything. It was a surreal experience. They started the engines back up, and we did an emergency landing at JFK.”
Ford has been involved in several piloting accidents over the years. The most serious was in March 2015, when he crash-landed at a Santa Monica golf course after encountering engine trouble. Ford, who was flying a yellow vintage fighter plane, suffered a broken arm and lacerations to his scalp.
In February 2017, Ford had another close call when he flew overtop a jetliner carrying 110 passengers, which was taxiing as he mistakenly landed his private single-engine plane in a taxiway instead of the runway, according to authorities. The controversial landing at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, prompted an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration.
In June 2014, CBS reported that the country star’s private jet made an emergency landing in Clarksburg, West Virginia, while transporting the singer from New York City (where she’d appeared on Good Morning America) to Nashville for the CMT Awards. The plane reportedly lost pressure while in the air and was grounded for three hours, Lambert’s publicist Wes Vause told CBS.
However, Lambert didn’t seem fazed, instead befriending some local firefighters and trying on their platinum suits (appropriately, Platinum was the name of Lambert’s new album at the time) before taking back to the skies and landing safely in Nashville.
Ashton Kutcher & Demi Moore
In August 2009, then-married Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore were flying to New York City after the premiere of Kutcher’s movie Spread when their airplane was forced to make an emergency landing in Las Vegas after the engine apparently overheated.
Luckily, neither actor was injured. Kutcher reported the scary incident on Twitter, writing, “My plane just had to do an emergency landing. Engine over heated. Fire engines everywhere good times.” He later posted an update saying he was “happy to be alive.”
Moore also chimed in about the incident on Twitter. “Yep it is always an adventure in Vegas emergency landing and all,” she wrote.
The Blink-182 drummer survived a plane crash that killed four other people in 2008. “I looked Death right in the face,” he told Rolling Stone of the crash.
He suffered second and third-degree burns after the accident but recuperated enough to get back in the studio two months later. “I can’t wait to get out of here and be home with the babes,” he wrote, referencing his kids, in the weeks after the accident. “The doctors say I’m healing up quickly, and I’m going to be out of here before you know it.”