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James Horner Died in High-Powered Military Trainer With Ejection Seats

Hollywood composer James Horner (top) and the type of plane he was flying, an S-312 Tucano MK1, built for the UK's Royal Air Force. (Photo: Stock)

Hollywood composer James Horner (top) and the type of plane he was flying, an S-312 Tucano MK1, built for the UK’s Royal Air Force. (Photo: Stock)

Oscar winning composer James Horner died flying a high-powered airplane originally designed as a military trainer. It was equipped with ejection seats for emergencies, which Horner’s version may, or may not, have had. His plane was destroyed on impact.

The plane was an S-312 Tucano MK1 turbo-prop originally built by Brazilian aircraft maker, Embraer, and later produced under license in several other countries.

It’s unknown at the moment how Horner came to own the plane. The military version sells for just under $1 million, and no civilian versions were manufactured.

The planes were built with ejection seats to enable the pilot and instructor to escape in emergencies. It’s unknown whether Horner’s version was similarly equipped. Early indications are he went down with the plane, suggesting he may have suffered a medical emergency.

The plane was destroyed on impact and debris was spread across an acre of land in the Los Padres National Forest, according to the Ventura County Fire Department. The plane was engulfed in flames on impact.

James Horner’s Hollywood Music Legacy
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
48 Hrs. (1982)
Cocoon (1985)
Aliens (1986)
Captain EO (1986)
An American Tale (1986)
Willow (1988)
The Land Before Time (1988)
Field of Dreams (1989)
Glory (1989)
The Rocketeer (1991)
Sneakers (1992)
Searching for Bobby Fisher (1993)
Legends of the Fall (1994)
Braveheart (1995)
Casper (1995)
Apollo 13 (1995)
Jumanji (1995)
Titanic (1997)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
The Perfect Storm (2000)
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
House of Sand and Fog (2003)
Avatar (2009)
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Sylvia Patrycja, Horner’s assistant, confirmed his death in a Facebook post.

“We have lost an amazing person with a huge heart, and unbelievable talent,” she wrote. He died doing what he loved. Thank you for all your support and love and see you down the road.”

The 61-year-old composer, an avid flyer, owned several airplanes, according to his lawyer Jay Cooper.

Horner was one of Hollywood’s most prolific and distinguished composers. He won two Oscars for his work on the 1997 film “Titanic.” He scored the film and wrote “My Heart Will Go On,” the movie’s theme song. The soundtrack sold more than 27 million copies.

From his work on Titanic, Horner forged a relationship with Director James Cameron and later scored Cameron-directed films “Avatar” and “Aliens.”

He was scoring music for two upcoming “Avatar” sequels at the time of his death. Two upcoming films will feature his music, “Southpaw,” with Jake Gyllenhall and Rachel McAdams and “The 33,” about the 2010 Chilean mining disaster.

His experience as a pilot is unknown at the moment, but the plane he was flying is considered easy to handle, although it’s a complex craft that requires lots of maintenance. Some versions were used as combat aircraft.

The turbo-prop powered plane first flew in the 1980s and replaced Brazil’s fleet of American-manufactured T-37 trainers. It was distinguished by its bubble canopy, elevated second seat and rakish tail design.

The plane has gone through a number of design versions over the years, including the EMB-314 Super Tucano. It was designed to be used as a tactical light bomber. Brazil used it for border patrol and anti-drug trafficking.

The designation, S-312 Tucano MK1, on Horner’s plane indicates that it was built by the Short Brothers in Belfast, Northern Ireland under license. It was used primarily by the Royal Air Force (RAF).

The Tucano’s accident record with the RAF has been remarkable. Only seven aircraft have crashed in more than 20 years of operation, according to a web site that tracks airplane ejections.

Horner’s plane had to be at least 20 years old since manufacturing on his version ended in 1996.

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