04/23/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Jeff Bezos, Survivor

The helicopter was out of control and Jeff Bezos, the dotcom billionaire who founded Amazon, was pretty sure he was about to die. He was pinioned in the front passenger seat as the pilot frantically tried to thread the cherry-red copter through a field of trees.

Bezos had been flying around the boondocks of West Texas to scout out a site for Blue Origin, a space tourism venture he'd long dreamed of starting. The helicopter ferried them to a remote area that a government report would later describe as "mountainous terrain next to a creek." After a brief look around, Bezos and two employees hopped back into the helicopter, and the pilot tried to take off. That's when things went bad.

"We had a full cabin, and a full tank of gas, so the helicopter was heavy," Bezos recalls, discussing the 2003 incident for the first time. "The way a helicopter takes off is to lift off a few feet, then the rotors tilt and it needs to get some forward momentum to generate lift." That didn't happen.

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