It’s the kind of headline no one wants to see, especially someone engaged with private flying: Roy Halladay, the famous two-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher, dying when his ICON A5 plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.
It was a sudden end to a storied career and a young life: Halladay was just 40 years old. Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement that “All of us at Baseball are shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic passing of former Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay… On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to his family, including his wife, Brandy, and two sons, Ryan and Braden, his friends and countless fans, as well as the Blue Jays and Phillies organizations.”
Not everyone was as nice, however.
Later, Felger issued an apology But Felger wasn’t the only one talking negatively: the New York Post published an article along with a video showing Halladay flying ‘dangerously low’ over the Gulf of Mexico, and claimed Halladay had a ‘death wish.’
Many will no doubt consider both the above opinions to be at least a little harsh. But one fact is certain, and not opinion: Halladay died on November 7th. And he took delivery of the A5 less than a month before—on October 12th.
That is not to say that Halladay was an inexperienced pilot: he had earned a private pilot’s license in 2013, and was rated for multiple engines and flying solely by instruments. Plus Halladay had logged about 700 hours of flight time, according to National Transportation Safety Board investigator Noreen Price.
But it does suggest that Halladay was inexperienced with the A5, a newer model of two-seat “light-sport aircraft” from Vacaville based ICON. In technical terms, the A5 is a high-wing amphibious monoplane that seats two people; powered by a single 100 HP Rotax 912 iS engine.
Icon positions the plane with a focus on recreation—competing with power sports vehicles, motorcycles, and snowmobiles, etc. As Icon CEO Kirk Hawkins put it, the A5 is “about getting you out there and interacting with your world.”
Halladay tweeted on October 31st, 2017 that flying over water was like “flying a fighter jet.”
Halladay’s wasn’t the only death of note associated with the aircraft. Early in May 2017 an A5 crashed at Lake Berryessa in Napa County, California. The fact that this was very near the headquarters of Icon—manufacturer of the A5—is less surprising once it is learned that the pilot and co-pilot were both Icon employees. Lead engineer and chief company test pilot Jon Karkow, piloting the craft, and Icon director of engineering Cagri Sever, passenger, both died after the aircraft was witnessed flying at low altitude and entering a narrow canyon.
The NTSB cited “failure to maintain clearance from terrain while maneuvering at a low altitude.” No fault was found with the aircraft.
If you are going to fly—especially if you are going to fly yourself—you want to make sure you have all the experience you can. You have to know yourself, and your abilities, and you have to know your aircraft.
This is true with cars, boats, and more, of course. Anything in life that can provide extreme pleasure usually comes laced with at least the potential for danger. But those who learn their skills, craft, and tools carefully usually provide a large measure of satisfaction for themselves—and for others—with regularity and precision.
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