Larry Ellison, the billionaire and until very recently CEO of Oracle, is famous for his outlandish pursuits. He delights in shooting hoops aboard his yacht The Rising Sun (reportedly the world’s 10th largest) and owns 97 percent of the Hawaiian island Lanai. In a recent profile otherwise devoted to that significant geographic purchase, the New York Times notes another oddity: “There’s a rumor—the truth of which remains murky—that Ellison once flew a fighter jet under the Golden Gate Bridge.”
Could such a thing be true? The closest Ellison has ever come to addressing the epic rumor appears to be in a 2004 interview with Charlie Rose. Asked whether he had taken a joyride below the Golden Gate Bridge, Ellison told Rose that doing so would be against Federal Aviation Administration rules and “so of course not.” Then again, if he had pursued such a stunt, Ellison added, he would have taken one of his fighter planes.
In an effort to get to the bottom of this rumor, I called up the authorities at the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. I spoke with several people, all of whom were familiar with the rumor of the Ellison joyride but none of whom could confirm that it had happened. One longtime sergeant, who declined to give his name, said there are similar stories around San Francisco’s Fleet Week—that the Blue Angels would invert a plane and fly it beneath the bridge.
But that also seems to be hearsay. “We wouldn’t do that,” a member of the Blue Angels told the Charleston, South Carolina, Post and Courier in 2010. “It’s really unsafe.” She added that the sharp turns taken by the jets could leave onlookers with the impression that an aircraft had flown under the bridge. (Watch the YouTube footage below from about the 5-second mark to the 10-second one, and you’ll see why.) At any rate, we may never really know if Ellison attempted this. But if it’s too dangerous for the Blue Angels, it seems unlikely that Ellison tried—much less managed—to pull off the trick.