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RIP Roy Halladay
By Ian Brown, Editor, EAA # 657159
December 2017 - Not many pilots spend a lot of time following baseball, but you have probably heard of pitcher Roy Halladay. He famously signed a one-day contract with his beloved Toronto Blue Jays, so that he could say that he retired as a Blue Jay.
He was hugely respected as a career baseball pitcher and as a person. He was a passionate pilot who died in the Gulf of Mexico in a light aircraft accident on November 7, 2017, at the age of 40. It’s wrong to repeat too much in the way of gossip, but what we do know is that he was flying an Icon A5. This is the third serious accident involving the Icon A5. In one of the others, the company’s chief test pilot and chief engineer died in an unexplained flight into a canyon for which there was no apparent evidence of aircraft problems. Observers described Halladay’s flying that day as “grandstanding.” The FAA was quick to comment that pilots should fly at least 300 feet and preferably 500 feet above a body of water. Hallady’s last recorded altitude was just 200 feet. Much of the Icon A5 promotional video footage shows flying over rocky terrain and rivers at low altitude.
Apparently, Halladay grew up in a flying family. His father was a corporate pilot, but Roy had not been able to risk flying as a highly prized baseball pitcher. It was one of the first things he took up when he retired, and promotional videos for the A5 show him delighting in the prospect of possessing his own A5.
As of yet, there has been no evidence at all that there were problems with the aircraft, and so far all three fatal crashes have been blamed on pilot error. The promotional information about the A5 being as easy as a car to drive perhaps makes it too easy for an inexperienced pilot to forget that it’s not a car. The same precautions need to be taken when flying aircraft, regardless of their size or configuration. For information on Icon’s low-altitude flying guidelines check this link.
It would probably be fair to say that none of the innovative safety enhancements of the A5, such as spin resistance, deployable parachute, angle of attack gauge, and so on, can be of much use when skimming the waves and solid floatplane flying experience is vital.