Statement On Halladay Crash By ASI’s Richard McSpadden, Jr.

McSpaddenPicture: Courtesy of Richard G. McSpadden, Jr.

AOPA Air Safety Institute’s Executive Richard McSpadden Jr. Has Shared A Statement On The Roy Halladay Crash

McSpadden, Jr.

Picture: Courtesy of Richard G. McSpadden, Jr.

Written by: Richard G. McSpadden, Jr. – The recent Icon A5 tragedy may have another unfortunate consequence, beyond the tragic loss of a remarkable man, Roy Halladay. The accident will stress the Icon company and put an exceptionally well-designed aircraft at risk of an unfair reputation. Icon set out with a mission to build the safest light sport aircraft in the world, and from my recent flight experience, it appears they achieved that and more, perhaps designing one of the safest aircraft in any category. Icon is working to broaden the aviation market and unfortunately for the industry, those efforts may be stunted due to recent accidents.

Icon Founder and CEO Kirk Hawkins is a driven Stanford graduate with an impressive military flying background and a brilliant vision to expand general aviation by appealing to a new cache of adventurous, spirited potential pilots, much like the kind of people flying appealed to at the dawn of aviation. Icon’s strategy is helpful to general aviation and if successful, will infuse it with new participants, taking advantage of FAA sport pilot rules which open general aviation at reduced cost and regulatory oversight. General aviation needs this kind of infusion.

From limited information and public videos, probable cause in the Halladay accident will likely stem from him not fully appreciating the dynamics of low altitude (LOWALT) flying. Low altitude flying demands constant awareness of “time to impact”, influenced by speed, altitude and aircraft attitude. Minor distractions are exaggerated into significant risks because of reduced time for recognition and recovery before ground impact. Concepts like “time to impact” and responses like “climb to cope” are essential parts of the subconscious when flying LOWALT. Most general aviation aircraft, including the Icon, have an added challenge of relatively limited engine power, which reduces the ability to escape exaggerated pitch attitudes and large sink rates. To their credit, Icon requires transition training before aircraft delivery, which includes some LOWALT training, and Icon recently published a well-thought-out piece on LOWALT flying, providing some guidelines and considerations.

Icon may need to expand LOWALT education and perhaps infuse their training programs with methods to instill a culture and a mindset among Icon pilots that respects the demands of LOWALT flying, while still promoting the fun and adventure. These are not mutually exclusive concepts. Hawkins will have to assess whether or not he has the right mix of instructor cadre to conduct expanded training optimized for general aviation pilots, who have varied training backgrounds and are constantly managing time and funding constraints.

About a decade ago, Cirrus had a troubling accident rate and the reputation of the aircraft suffered despite significant safety enhancements. Cirrus responded, redesigning training and working with the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) to change the Cirrus culture and help pilots adapt and take advantage of the aircraft’s safety features. Icon will need a similar response to learn from this year’s tragedies and establish a culture that promotes the thrill of flying in the LOWALT environment, while instilling a respect for “time to impact” among an adventurous breed of general aviation pilots.

Richard G. McSpadden, Jr. – Executive Director – AOPA Air Safety Institute

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