The Chilling Reason Travis Barker Refused to Fly for Over a Decade
| LAST UPDATE 04/20/2023
In September 2021, Travis Barker stepped onto a plane for the first time in thirteen years. With his girlfriend, Kourtney Kardashian, by his side, this was a moment he never imagined would happen.
The Kravis Wedding Special
On April 13, 2023, Hulu premiered its new series, Till Death Do Us Part: Kourtney and Travis. Taking audiences behind the scenes of their three weddings, the show gave us the ultimate inside look.
Starting with their wedding in Vegas, then moving on to the official ceremony in Santa Barbara, the couple finished in style with their romantic bash in Portofino, Italy. Ever since the PDA-prone lovebirds entered the public eye, we've followed along the road bumps that got them to this special day.
Happily Ever After
As the two stood facing each other, exchanging vows and saying 'I Do,' there wasn't a dry eye in the room. Both Kourtney and Travis had overcome a few real-life challenges to be able to be there on that day. For starters, Kourtney had struggled with an on-and-off tumultuous relationship with her ex, Scott Disick.
Travis, on the other hand, had other demons he needed to battle. After all this time, it was the ultimate happy ending for the rapper, who had risen from the lowest point in his life. The fact that he had even been able to arrive at the wedding venue in Portofino was astounding. Here's why...
A Triumphant Arrival
Travis' flight to Italy on a black private jet with his daughter, Alabama, hardly sounds like an achievement at first. Videos that were taken by his teenage daughter and uploaded to TikTok showed off their stylish mode of transportation, as Barker is seen lying comfortably on a big bed.
But within the walls of that aircraft, an entirely different story was being told. Every person on board was aware of the strength it had taken Barker to board the plane that morning, and they were doing everything they could to ensure he would have the support he needed to cope. As they touched down, everyone sighed with relief.
A Decade-Long Ban
As a famous musician, especially one associated with a Kardashian, we imagine flying as a regular part of Travis Barker's life. But what many do not know is that the Blink-182 singer had a self-imposed flying ban due to a particularly traumatic experience he once had on a flight...
For over a decade, he refused to step on any aircraft for fear of the incident repeating itself. He had developed an extreme fear of flying and had, at one point, imagined he would never fly again. Of course, that was before he met the love of his life - the one and only Kourtney Kardashian.
In September 2021, the rock musician spoke with Nylon magazine about his fear of flying, crediting his loving partner for her part in his recovery journey. His first flight in over a decade was to Cabo, which he took alongside his future mother-in-law, Kris Jenner, and her partner Corey Gamble.
"I made a deal with her that she had just said to me, 'I would love to do so much traveling with you. And I said, 'Well, when the day comes you want to fly, I'm telling you I'll do it with you. I would do anything with you. And just give me 24 hours' notice,'" he continued. "And that's what she did."
Unpacking The Incident
Although it took time, Travis has since been open about the experience that greatly impacted his life. Over multiple interviews, he has revealed various details about that fateful day, the trauma he was forced to endure, and his complex emotional and physical recovery journey.
A clear story can be drawn by piecing all the provided information together. The Blink-182 musician experienced something only a few have survived to recall, making his recovery journey all the more impressive. It all began on September 19, 2008...
South Carolina to Los Angeles
On that fateful day, Travis Barker boarded a private Learjet plane from Columbia, South Carolina, to Los Angeles. As far as he was concerned, it would be a flight like any other. There was no real reason for concern, and he barely gave his upcoming journey any real thought.
Reassuring him further was the fact that he wasn't traveling alone. He had his assistant, Chris Baker, by his side, his security guard Charles "Che" Still, and his best friend, Adam "DJ AM" Goldstein. With all these people by his side, he was sure the flight would be nothing but a good time.
A Worrying Decision
Looking back, Travis can recognize there were, in fact, some worrying signs that perhaps had foreshadowed the events that later took place. For one, his then-wife Shanna Moakler had made a last-minute decision to stay back with their children and not board the plane with her husband.
"Just in case something happens, I don't want us both to be going," he recalled her saying. He admitted that although this decision made him feel slightly uneasy, it was not enough to seriously consider abandoning the flight. That was until his phone rang, and his heart began to race.
Alabama Speaks Out
Sitting down with Larry King later in October 2015, Barker replayed those moments before the flight. On the other side of the phone was his toddler-aged daughter Alabama who told him she had a bad feeling about the plane he was about to board and begged him not to go through with it.
"My daughter was hysterically crying that she didn't want me to fly that day. She said: 'The roof is going to come off,' and I was like: 'What happened? Was there an earthquake this morning? Did she see something shake? What triggered this?' She just kept screaming it and crying it."
A "Horrible Feeling"
With both his wife and daughter expressing concern, Travis admitted to King that he had begun worrying for himself. That being said, he still made his way toward Columbia Metropolitan Airport. Before he embarked on the aircraft, he called his dad to admit he had "a horrible feeling."
"Everything felt wrong," he admitted in an interview with The Real. "I called my pops from outside the plane like: 'This plane is really small, I have a horrible feeling. If anything happens, make sure my kids are OK.'" In a decision he would come to regret greatly, he decided to go forward with the flight.
From the second the plane lowered its wheels to begin its ascent into the air, it became instantly clear that something was seriously wrong. As the plane picked up speeds of up to 150 mph and jetted off down the runway, all four of the tires exploded in the process.
In response, the pilots tried to pull on the brakes, which malfunctioned due to the tire fragments entering and disrupting the aircraft's hydraulic system. Ultimately, the plane's high speeds meant aborting the takeoff was no longer a safe option. No one could predict what would happen next.
A Ball of Fire
"The landing gear popped; it sounded like gunshots," Travis told King. "It sounded like someone was shooting a gun next to my head. Then the plane just spiraled out of control. The plane would basically go up in the air, then crash down and hit the ground, then come up."
After plowing through a fence and South Carolina Highway 302, it crashed into a barrier and blew up. "Every time we hit the ground, the flames and smoke would get bigger, and before the last impact, the plane was completely on fire," he continued. "We were a ball of fire in the sky."
When questioned about his thoughts at that moment, Travis harrowingly admitted to King that "it was [his] biggest fear already, and it was coming true." He acknowledged in the 2015 interview that he had "always hated flying" after having had "a dream when he was 19 that [he] would die in a plane crash."
"From a young age, I saw my mum fly with me one time, and she was very upset. It was just always something I didn't care to do," he continued. "How did you live?" King asked the musician about the infamous incident. "I don't know, I was blessed," Barker replied. "I was the only one awake."
Travis knew he had to act quickly if he would stand any chance of surviving this ordeal. "I run, I grab Adam, he's passed out, and we run towards the emergency exit," he recalled to Larry King. While this would prove to be a wise, life-saving decision, a complication during the jump led to some severe injuries.
"When I jumped through the emergency exit when the plane blew up, I was in such a hurry to exit the plane I jumped right into the jet, which is full of fuel," he explained during an appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience. "My whole body lit up. I had jet fuel in my whole body."
"Adam sees me jump into the actual jets and become fully on fire, and he jumps around and follows me. He's on his phone calling our manager, going, 'Our plane crashed; Travis is on fire.' He's cursing and yelling." Once his feet touched the ground, he couldn't think to do anything but run.
"When I jumped into the jets, I started running," he continued. "I was ripping off my clothes because that's what my instinct told me to do, but little did I know I was still on fire because I was soaked in jet fuel." At that point, Barker feared it might be the end of his life, believing it was unlikely he'd survive.
Running along the highway, a passerby screamed out to an enflamed Barker, reminding him to 'stop, drop and roll.' "I hear it and do exactly that," the drummer told King. Until this point, Goldstein had avoided direct interaction with fire and had no burns. But that was about to change...
"The only place Adam got burned was, you know, my feet were soaked in jet fuel, so he actually patted out my feet, and he ended up burning himself on his arm and a little bit on the back of his head. If he hadn't done that, I probably wouldn't have feet or legs today," Travis said of his friend's bravery.
Admittedly, there was a reasonable chance that Travis would have lost his foot. As he explained to Larry King, his shoes and socks had also been soaked in fuel and had caught fire. Immediately following the incident, the musician was transported to the Grossman Burn Center for emergency surgery.
Barker remained in the hospital bed for eleven weeks, undergoing 27 surgeries and skin grafts. "I had 65% of my body burned in third-degree burns," he told King. Talking about the pain involved with burns, Travis described it to King as "the most painful experience obviously I've ever been in."
While the musician began to recover physically and mentally from the incident, his medical team and his family thought it best to keep him out of the loop. Not everyone who boarded that aircraft had made it through, and they feared how Barker would react to this news.
Finally, just two weeks before the musician was discharged from the hospital, he learned about the deaths of his friends Chris and Che. He was also informed that the plane's two pilots, James Bland and Sarah Lemmon, had been killed in the accident. Adam Goldstein had been the only other survivor.
Looking back on the day's events, Barker admitted to ABC News that his memory had been compromised in the days following the crash. "When I was in the hospital, I was on so many drugs I didn't even know my two friends had passed away. I didn't know the pilots had passed away. I didn't remember anything."
He believed everyone on the flight had survived just like he had. "I kept thinking everyone was in the hospital, including the two pilots and including my best friends. I thought everyone was in different rooms until two weeks before I left. Then I went crazy. I wasn't in a good place. I was kind of crazy."
Bringing Back Blink-182
Appearing on stage at the Grammy's in February 2009, Barker reunited with his Blink-182 bandmates to make an exciting announcement. "We used to play music together, and we decided we're going to play music together again," the drummer announced with his arm still cast from the crash.
Four years prior, the musicians had announced the group would be taking an "indefinite hiatus." This unexpected reunion was unexpected and emotional for the band and fans alike. Following this, Blink-182 continued to tour, but Travis's refusal to board a plane and join them caused rifts among the group.
Tragically, there was more bad news on the way for Barker. In August 2009, just one year after the death of his two friends, the musician was forced to relive the pain of loss all over again. While sitting in his studio watching TV, his heart sank when he saw that his friend DJ AM had passed away from a drug overdose.
"I was in shock: I felt like there was a rock in my throat that I couldn't swallow," he said. "I felt like a piece of me had just died. I burst into tears and left the studio." Talking to Mens Health, the drummer noted they had been "each other's therapists" in the aftermath of the crash. "It was just him and me."
This influx of tragic news in such a short period of time was incredibly challenging for Barker to handle, and he fell into a deep depression. He admitted that he struggled to wake up each day and could not understand life's purpose. He could not imagine how he would carry on.
Barker revealed that he believes he would not have managed if it hadn't been for his kids. "It was mainly my kids and a second chance at life," he answered when ABC News questioned how he had made it through this dark period. He wanted to show his children that recovery was possible.
Picking Himself Back Up
Ultimately, he knew that he needed to get his life back on track - if not for his own sake, then for his children's. They had been struggling with their dad's declining mental health and needed a strong father figure back in their life. It was hard for them to see me in the state that I was in," he said.
"They'd color in class, and everyone's drawing pictures of their family or what they did over the weekend, and Landon's drawing a picture of a plane crashing." For now, he needed to be able to walk and show on his own. After that, he could attempt to overcome the flying phobia.
In April 2010, The National Transportation Safety Board released an official report on the 2008 crash. After thoroughly investigating the incident at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport, they concluded what they believed to have been the main contributing factors.
They identified many factors, including under-inflated tires and errors carried out by the pilots on board. They also reported design issues with the Learjet aircraft. There was also some blame attributed to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Sadly, getting through the surgeries and arriving home was just the beginning of Barker's survival journey. As soon as he was conscious and functioning, he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder. The drummer explained to Men's Health that he did not sleep for the first three weeks he was home.
After that, he found he could doze off for an hour or two if he had his children by his side. "I was dark; I couldn't walk down the street," he said. "If I saw a plane [in the sky], I was determined it was going to crash, and I just didn't want to see it." Months of therapy helped him unpack his survivor's guilt.
Although it seemed bleak at times, Travis was able to get himself back on track. "It's gotten better the further I get away from it," he explained to Men's Health. "Now, it's been so many years; it's getting easier for me. There are days where I'll wake up and never think about it."
"I was told I wasn't going to run again because I had so many grafts on my feet, and there was even talk of me never playing the drums again," Travis told Men's Health. But this only motivated him. "As soon as I could walk, I could run. As soon as I could move my hands and my hands healed, I was playing drums. And now I'm in better shape than I've ever been."
13 Years Later
In August 2021, almost thirteen years after the incident that changed his life, Barker stepped onto the flight to Cabo with his girlfriend. Talking to Nylon, the musician explained he conducted some breathing exercises in the lead-up to the big moment, which helped him "go deeper" into a subconscious state.
According to the star, conducting these mindful practices and inhaling and exhaling helps him feel every emotion. One minute he's laughing; the next, he's crying - it's all a high to him. Talking to the magazine after his return to LA, he said he felt "awesome" about conquering his fear.
A Jet Setter
With the band-aid officially ripped off, Travis now has the world at his fingertips. Since his Cabo trip, he and his now-wife, Kourtney Kardashian, have been unstoppable. In September 2021 alone, the lovebirds flew five times, visiting Mexico, Italy, France, and New York.
"With you, anything is possible," Barker tagged an Instagram photo of him and Kourtney lovingly posing by a jet. From all of the interviews that followed, it was apparent how proud he was of himself for doing the one thing he thought he'd never be able to do again.
Unsurprisingly, the musician credits his wife, Kourtney, for helping him through the struggle. "It's still something very new to me, but having something that gives me the strength and hopes to be able to overcome things that were so traumatic in my life, it just says a ton," he revealed to Nylon magazine.
"She's definitely that for me," he continued. "I'm invincible when I'm with her. It's like I never dreamed; I never even considered flying again." As far as Travis is concerned, he's been cured of a mental health challenge he never imagined he could ever recover from.
Knock on Effect
It's not just Travis that has Kourtney to thank for her support—in response to her father's incident, Alabama Barker understandably developed her own fear of flying. After watching her dad conquer his fears and board a plane, she was inspired to follow in his footsteps.
On the occasion of Travis's 46th Birthday, she accompanied him on a flight to Mexico. "Love you the most," Alabama commented on a photo he posted of them. "Love you more," he replied. "I'm so proud of you for flying." Barkers-Kardashians for the win!