Director Barry Sonnenfeld survives plane crash

On 16 February 1999, director Barry Sonnenfeld, whose films include Men in Black, Men in Black II, and Wild, Wild West, escaped injury when the Gulfstream II executive jet he was riding ran off the runway at the Van Nuys, CA airport, crashed into several nearby aircraft, and caught fire. Sonnenfeld and the three crew members escaped injury, but the aircraft was seriously damaged. After the accident, Sonnenfeld was quoted as saying that "The weird thing is that I hate to fly, and the quote that I give people is that every time I get off a plane, I view it as a failed suicide attempt." The following synopsis of the accident is taken from the preliminary NTSB report

NTSB Identification: LAX99FA101
Date: 16 February 1999
Location: Van Nuys, CA
Aircraft: Gulfstream II
Registration: N711TE

On February 16, 1999, at 1318 hours Pacific standard time, a Grumman G-1159 (Gulfstream II), sustained substantial damage when it departed the end of runway 16R after landing at the Van Nuys, California, airport. The airline transport pilot, first officer, flight attendant, and sole passenger were not injured. The flight was conducted as an on-demand, domestic, passenger flight. Three parked and unoccupied aircraft on the ground were destroyed; one sustained substantial damage and another minor damage when the aircraft traveled into a tie down area. According to the flight log in the aircraft, the GII departed Westhampton Beach, New York, at 0957 eastern standard time with three crewmembers and eight passengers. That flight terminated in Montrose, Colorado, and seven passengers deplaned. The aircraft then departed for Van Nuys.

The passenger (Sonnenfeld) stated the flight was unremarkable through the early stages of the approach. He stated the approach then assumed an angle steeper than any he had previously encountered and the speed was "very, very, very fast." He pressed his feet into the seat back in front of him. For the last three or four minutes of the flight he heard a loud, rapidly repeating, beeping sound through the cockpit door. He also stated that he usually hears two sounds during the approach. One of the sounds he believed to be the speed brakes being deployed and the other the landing gear going down. He was not aware of the first sound on this flight and he never got the sense that the aircraft was slowing down. The passenger reported that the aircraft maintained its steep angle of descent and high speed until over the runway. He felt the rear wheels touch down, but he thought the nose wheel was still in the air. Eventually the nose dropped but he didn't hear the thrust reversers spool up. He said he had no sense of slowing down as the aircraft was progressing down the runway. Then he heard the reversers spool up and he was pulled forward in his seat. The aircraft turned sharply to the left and felt like it was banking to the left. He could see that they continued to travel over a grassy area and back onto pavement. Then he could see and hear them hitting parked aircraft. The aircraft stopped and he did not see any fire.

The passenger further stated that shortly after the aircraft came to a stop, the cockpit door flew open and the crew tried to unsuccessfully open the entry door. None of the crewmembers directed any attention to him. At this point he noticed what he believed to be fuel running down the top of the wing and said, "I think we have a problem." He heard crewmembers say "Oh God, we'll go out the back," and, "let's go". All three ran by him to the back of the aircraft and exited through the baggage door without directing any comments to him or offering any assistance. He went to the back of the aircraft and jumped to waiting firemen.

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Director Barry Sonnenfeld survives plane crash -- Revised: 18 October 2015