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Report on Halladay crash paints sad picture

The NTSB released its factual report April 14 on the November 2017 crash that killed baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Roy Halladay, who was flying solo in his new Icon A5.

Former Major League Baseball Roy Halladay. Photo courtesy of Icon.

The factual report, which should soon be followed with the final report that includes the NTSB’s determination of probable cause, paints a sad picture of a reckless pilot, heavily impaired by a noxious variety of drugs, operating without full appreciation for the risks of low-altitude flying.

According to the report, Halladay’s Icon plunged into four feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico, near the coast of Clearwater, Florida, wings level at about a 45-degree angle. Witnesses observed and cell phone video confirmed Halladay was performing aggressive maneuvers minutes prior to the accident, with high bank angles and exaggerated pitch movements ranging from 500 feet agl, down to just a few feet above the water. In the maneuver preceding the crash, Halladay climbed aggressively and reduced power. The aircraft exceeded an angle of attack that would have induced a stall, then banked hard into a steep nose-down attitude before impacting the water wings level. The report lists blunt force trauma as cause of death with drowning a contributing condition.

The toxicology report listed some seven different drugs in Halladay’s system including sleep aids, amphetamines, morphine, and antidepressants. Some of the drugs registered at extreme levels typically associated with misuse. Halladay struggled with substance abuse and depression in the immediate years following his retirement from Major League Baseball in 2013.

Despite the obvious impact of impairment, Halladay’s accident reinforces unique risks of low-altitude flying, which the AOPA Air Safety Institute addressed soon after the accident.

Halladay held a private pilot certificate with multiengine and single-engine ratings. He had logged about 750 hours total flight time with 50 hours in an Icon. He’d owned his Icon for about a month and logged 15 hours in it prior to the crash. His history flying the Icon is troubling, including his personal logbook entry describing flight underneath the nearby Skyway Bridge, approximately 180 feet above the water.

Halladay’s career as an MLB pitcher included one of only 23 perfect games pitched in MLB history.

Richard McSpadden
Richard McSpadden
Senior Vice President of AOPA Air Safety Institute
Richard McSpadden tragically lost his life in an airplane accident on October 1, 2023, at Lake Placid, New York. The former commander and flight leader of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, he served in the Air Force for 20 years before entering the civilian workforce. As AOPA’s Air Safety Institute Senior Vice President, Richard shared his exceptional knowledge through numerous communication channels, most notably the Early Analysis videos he pioneered. Many members got to know Richard through his monthly column for AOPA's membership magazine. Richard was dedicated to improving general aviation safety by expanding pilots' knowledge.
Topics: People, Experimental, Accident

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