On October 20, 1977, a Convair CV-240 chartered by the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd from L&J Company of Addison, Texas, ran out of fuel and crashed in Gillsburg, Mississippi, near the end of its flight from Greenville, South Carolina, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Lead vocalist/founding member Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist/vocalist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines (Steve's older sister), assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot William Gray all died as a result of the crash. Twenty others survived.
It was later discovered that the very same Convair CV-240 involved in the crash had earlier been inspected by members of Aerosmith's flight crew for possible use in 1977, but it was rejected because it was felt that neither the plane nor the crew were up to standards. Aerosmith's assistant chief of flight operations, Zunk Buker, told of observing pilots McCreary and Gray sharing a bottle of Jack Daniel's while he and his father inspected the plane. Aerosmith's touring family were quite shaken after receiving word of the crash, as Steven Tyler and Joe Perry had pressured their management into renting that specific plane for use on their 1977 American tour.
Keyboardist Billy Powell, among others, spoke of seeing flames shooting out of the plane's right engine during a flight just days before the crash. The subsequent NTSB report listed "an engine malfunction of undetermined nature" in that same engine as a contributing factor in the crash