Icon A5 crash in which Roy Halladay died

Friends have been asking about the crash of an Icon A5 seaplane in which former baseball star Roy Halladay died (USA Today).

From a quick Google search it seems that Mr. Halladay learned to fly in 2013 or 2014.

The FAA’s online Airmen Registry shows HARRY LEROY HALLADAY III holding a Private certificate (the lowest of three levels) with ratings for single-engine land (e.g., Cessna 172), multi-engine land (e.g., Beech Baron or King Air), and Instrument Airplane (“instrument rating,” enabling flight through clouds with assistance from Air Traffic Control). He also had a “sport endorsement” for “Airplane Single Engine Sea,” presumably related to flying the Icon A5. The certificate was issued on November 16, 2016, suggesting that he had been signed off to fly the Icon A5 on that date.

The certificate and ratings that Mr. Halladay held represent significant experience and achievements, so this was not a situation in which a raw novice was at the controls. That said, seaplanes and amphibians tend to require a higher level of skill to manage. For example, if you land an amphib with the gear down in water by mistake, for example, that’s a life-threatening accident. By contrast, a gear-up landing on an asphalt runway is life-threatening only if the flight school owner runs out and strangles you. The airport is a much more structured environment than a lake or bay. You’re not going to hit a submerged log on a paved runway.

The above-referenced USA Today story says that he’d owned the plane for less than a month. One of the biggest factors for safety is “time in type.” A pilot with 30,000 hours may not be safer than one with 3,000 hours total time, but a pilot with 500 hours in a type of airplane will be statistically much safer than a more-experienced pilot with just 10 hours in that airplane. On the third hand, articles indicate that Mr. Halladay had previously been a renter of the Icon A5, so his experience with the plane might have included 50 hours of training and rental over the preceding year.

The Icon A5 includes a flight data recorder, unlike most small planes, and therefore there should be some answers fairly soon about what happened. Seaplanes can be tough to land in glassy water due to the difficulty of perceiving height above the water. Thus it might be interesting to know if the water had been flat calm at the time of the crash.

15 thoughts on “Icon A5 crash in which Roy Halladay died

  1. This is so sad. By all account he seemed like a great guy and a great father. Flying close to, and landing on, water is a risky endeavor even for the very experienced let alone the relative novice. This has long been my concern about the A5. I worry that many pilots with far less experience than Halladay will take to the skies in them.

  2. The thing costs FOUR-HUNDRED LARGE and it’s an LSA?
    With a waiting list of 1,800? (according to Wikipedia)

    Who are these people?

  3. > Who are these guys?

    Halladay was a former major league pitcher with $149M in career earnings. Presumably money was not an object.

  4. Wow, not only Halladay, but the original designer of the plane was also killed flying it earlier this year (from the USA Today article):

    The man who led the plane’s design, 55-year-old John Murray Karkow, died while flying an A5 over California’s Lake Berryessa on May 8, in a crash the National Transportation Safety Board blamed on pilot error.

    How is there still a waiting list for this plane?

  5. J.: I was saddened by the death of John Karkow, whom I met at Oshkosh back in 2010 and got some straight answers from (e.g., he predicted that the plane would flip over if landed in the water with the gear down). However, the NTSB concluded that the accident was unrelated to the airplane. Instead it was a mistaken turn into a canyon. (I guess you could still ask why a plane with a terrain database and a GPS wouldn’t flash a big warning about such a turn, but that’s shading into $500 drone territory and certified airplanes tend to be stuck back in the 1950s.) The same accident would have happened if he had followed the same flight path in an Aviat Husky on floats or a Cessna 172 without floats for that matter.

  6. Phil, If he was flying the aircam he would have been able to out climb the terrain. I don’t understand why any one would choose a icon a 5 over an aircam on amphibious floats!

  7. I have loved the idea of this plane since I saw it about a year ago. I totally understand RH’s excitement and the joy he felt flying it. He clearly has some hours flying in it. Apparently he had been flying over the water off the cost for a week, per a witness. If you watch the videos on the Icon A5 site, you will see how the job of piloting the plane is made easy. I’ve read in several sources that the FAA was very complimentary of their spin/stall resistant wing design. The company’s site also shows how the plane is very difficult to stall or nose-dive. So I don’t think it was a mechanical problem.

    I do believe, based on all that I’ve read, that RH was ‘joyriding’ a bit and probably made a small error that killed him. He loved flying the plane over the surface of the water; he was filmed doing rollercoaster dives over the water just prior to crash. Any small error could have sent him straight into the water on the descending curve.

    As for the designer who was killed, he apparently intended to fly into a canyon with access to a large lake, but he flew into a box canyon instead and could not turn or get high enough to avoid the crash. So, again, pilot error, not mechanical.

    Finally, some tech millionaire in Seattle has one and he loves it. Uses it to go to his island cottage regularly. So the plane is being flown elsewhere successfully.

    Still love the plane (and still can’t afford one!).

  8. Paul Bertorelli wrote an editorial on the crash today: https://www.avweb.com/blogs/insider/Icon-Gets-Tested-229887-1.html

    He compares the A5’s accident record so far to that of its biggest competitor, the Progressive Aerodyne Searey. The Searey, which tends to flip if you land it gear down in the water, has a pretty good safety record. The twin sliding canopies make it easy to get out if that happens and it has a low fatality rate. Another big advantage that the Searey has is that it first flew in 1992 and has been continuously improved since then. Some of its bad habits (like the A hull not being as forgiving on the water as the later B or C hulls) have been engineered out of it. The A5 has not had the benefit of this yet.

  9. Thanks, Cliff. There is a strange section within the piece by Bertorelli. He says “Is it realistic to train people from zero time, give them low-altitude hazard awareness doctrine and turn them loose? Is the Halladay crash a leading indicator that this is iffy, or just an unfortunate one-off?”

    Halladay was flying a Cessna Caravan, had multi- and instrument ratings, etc. How can he be used as an example of “train people from zero time”?

    The Searey has much better performance specs (see http://www.searey.com/our-aircraft/searey-lsa/searey-comparison-menu ), e.g., less than half the water takeoff roll. And it is now 1/3 the price.

  10. Yeah, I’m not sure that he knew that Halladay had 800 hours and additional training. In fact, a good bit of additional training, much more in the last few years than a large percentage of the active private pilot population here in the US.

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