Haraldur Diego, president of AOPA Iceland, has died. His Cessna 172 was found at the bottom of Lake Thingvallavatn, one of Iceland’s largest lakes, and a popular tourist destination.
Reports indicate that he flew his Cessna 172 out of the Reykjavik Airport February 3 on what was to be a two-hour sightseeing trip for three passengers from the United States, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Diego ran Volcano Air Iceland, a popular aerial photography tour company. He was also the editor and publisher of AOPA Iceland’s magazine.
The Iceland Monitor reported February 7 that Diego's passengers were “influencers” in their own right. Nicola Bellavia, 32, a Belgian adventurer and social media influencer, was among those killed, along with Josh Neuman, 22, a skateboarder and social media influencer who lived in the United States. Tim Alings, 27, from the Netherlands, who did marketing work for a Belgian lifestyle streetwear brand, also perished.
As president of AOPA Iceland, Diego, 50, was a key leader in Iceland’s vibrant general aviation community, and represented Iceland’s interests in the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA) and other venues. He was full of energy and enthusiasm for all things aviation, and was instrumental in promoting numerous events, including the founding and organization of Iceland’s annual summer fly-in at the Mulakot Airport—a grass strip in central Iceland.
Former secretary-general of IAOPA Craig Spence said that Diego “would light up the room” at meetings, and that “he cared most about flying, Iceland, and spending time with people.”
Many photographers and tourists who had flown with Diego posted tributes on Facebook and Instagram recalling their time spent with him—and recalling the photos they’d captured on their tours.
In 2017, Diego was instrumental to the logistical success and popularity of the “Iceland Calls” article in the March 2018 issue of AOPA Pilot about GA flying in Iceland. The article features still photography and videos of various locations, and includes an interview with Diego at the Mulakot Fly-In.
Details concerning the cause(s) and circumstances of the accident await the results of an investigation.