Memory chipmaker Micron Technology's board appointed company veteran Mark Durcan as chief executive a day after longtime Chairman and CEO Steve Appleton was killed in a plane crash.

Hours after Appleton's death on Friday morning, Micron's board named Durcan, the president and chief operating officer, as temporary CEO and analysts speculated he could be asked to stay on full- time.

The 51-year-old Appleton, a three-decade industry veteran who performed stunts at airshows, died after the small plane he was piloting crashed at an airport in Boise, Idaho, where the chipmaker is headquartered.

His death was a major loss to the company, already struggling with sluggish computer sales and declining prices.

The quick appointment of Durcan, 51, as permanent CEO came just a week after the company announced he would retire in August.

Durcan joined Micron in 1984 and served as chief technology officer before becoming chief operating officer in 2007.

Seen as Micron's even-keeled top technologist, Durcan has taken on a greater role running the chipmaker day-to-day in the past few years, while larger-than-life Appleton focused more on strategy.

Micron's board of directors also named director Robert Switz the new chairman of the board. Switz was formerly CEO of ADC Telecommunications.

We are fortunate to be able to appoint someone with Mark's operations and technical leadership experience to serve as the company's CEO, said Switz. Mark has been instrumental in Micron's success in his role as President and COO and has garnered the respect of the company, his team members and the industry at large.

The loss of Micron's top dealmaker could waylay a possible acquisition of troubled Japanese rival Elpida Memory. Saddled with millions of dollars in operating losses and major upcoming debt payments, Elpida may be in talks to be bought by Micron or reach some kind of partnership, media recently speculated.

(Reporting By Noel Randewich; Editing by Peter Cooney)