Today in Apple history: Steve Wozniak survives a plane crash

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The Woz tells it like it is.
A plane crash marked the beginning of a leave of absence for Woz.
Photo: Universal Pictures

February 7: Today in Apple history: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak survives a plane crash February 7, 1981: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is involved in a serious plane crash, resulting in his first lengthy leave of absence from the company.

At the time, Wozniak is flying a turbocharged single-engine, six-seat Beechcraft Bonanza A36TC. In the plane with Woz is his fiancé, Candi Clark, her brother and her brother’s girlfriend. Fortunately, nobody dies in the crash, although Woz suffers minor head injuries.

Steve Wozniak plane crash makes the news.
News of the Steve Wozniak plane crash, as reported in 1981.
Photo: InfoWorld

Coming just months after Apple’s IPO, in which Wozniak’s stake in Apple earned him $116 million, the crash occurred during a time of extreme change in Woz’s life. He was watching Apple grow bigger than he’d ever imagined — and change in ways he wasn’t completely happy about.

In terms of his personal life, he had just divorced his first wife. Woz then started dating Clark, a secretary at Apple. For their first date, he took her to see a science fiction movie at a theater he bought with some of his IPO money.

Steve Wozniak plane crash

The pair quickly planned to get married. Wozniak decided to fly them to see Clark’s uncle, who offered to design her a custom wedding ring. With Woz, who had only flown for 50 hours at the time, at the controls, the plane climbed too abruptly. Then the aircraft stalled and careened through two fences into the car park of a skating rink. Woz later said he thought Candi might have accidentally leaned on the controls.

Woz wound up in the hospital, suffering from amnesia. He spent much of his recovery time playing videogames and convincing his old Homebrew Computer Club friend, Dan Sokol, to smuggle in pizza and milkshakes. He didn’t immediately go back to Apple.

This turned out to be the beginning of Woz extricating himself from his full-time role at Apple. Although he technically remains an Apple employee to this day, he began pursuing other interests.

When he wound up going back to Apple a couple of years later, he stayed for just two more years — growing increasingly frustrated by the lack of focus placed on the Apple II division — before leaving again.