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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 flight demonstration team had served in the Air Force for 20 years before entering the civilian workforce.

Richard was appointed executive director of the AOPA Air Safety Institute in February 2017 and promoted to senior vice president in July 2020.

As AOPA’s Air Safety Institute Senior Vice President, Richard was dedicated to improving aviation safety and he shared his exceptional knowledge through numerous communication channels, including the There I Was podcast and the Beyond Proficient, Reality Check, and most notably, Early Analysis videos. Many members got to know Richard through his monthly column for AOPA Pilot.

Richard was dedicated to improving the general aviation safety record with the goal of reducing GA mishaps by expanding pilots’ knowledge. His GA safety model promoted five principles:

  • Take knowledgeable pilots
  • Train them well
  • Keep them proficient
  • Have them fly reliable, modern equipment, and
  • Surround them by a culture that promotes good decision making

Read more about Richard’s distinctive leadership, approach to safety, and tremendous joy experiencing and sharing the beauty of flight in this tribute to Richard McSpadden, “In Memoriam: AOPA’S McSpadden Lived His Passion.”