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Roy Halladay - Icon A5 Crash

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Second fatal crash of an A5 this year.  The first one, in May, killed Icon's chief test pilot, Jon Karkow.

Icon has taken some heat for an initial version of a sales contract (since modified) that included an unusually broad "indemnify and hold harmless" clause that seemed to imply that any accidents would be due to pilot error.

Halladay had bought his aircraft just a little over three weeks ago.

Obviously, it's dangerous to speculate, especially about a terrible accident that's just happened.  Investigators will need to look at a range of things, including the aircraft, its unusual automobile-style displays, what's involved in transitioning from more conventional aircraft, and of course the way the flight was conducted.

It's a terrible loss.  Halladay was by all accounts not only a great pitcher but a fine person.

Some background:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinenegroni/2016/05/26/icons-new-plane-caught-in-storm-of-its-own-creation/#398b4d1b5f79

http://christinenegroni.com/icon-aircraft-throttle-back-harsh-purchase-terms-a5/

http://christinenegroni.com/icon-statement-suggest-pilot-erred-a5-plane-crash/

http://christinenegroni.com/icon-aircraft-founder-kirk-hawkins-disputes-post-pilot-error-a5-crash/

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/sports/roy-halladay-dead-plane.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur

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I am a big big Blue Jays fan so sad to see this. Man died doing something he loved so mad respect for that, better to live life then not live at all. 

RIP to one of the greats 

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My wife grew up in Philadelphia, so the 2010 season was a big deal around here.  I got to see him live vs. the Nats a few times - but it was even better to watch him on TV, where you could see what that amazing late movement on the fastball was doing

Apparently he was deeply involved in animal rescue among other good causes.

It's really hard to process the news.

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I read he was a pilot since age 16 with over 800 hours.  So certainly someone with experience flying.  Will be interesting to find out the cause as determined by the investigators.  Another Blue Jays fane here.  RIP. 

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29 minutes ago, MarkW said:

I read he was a pilot since age 16 with over 800 hours

He just recently got his pilots license, his baseball career did not allow him to fly so after he retired in 2013 he got his license in April 2014 according to his Twitter page.  His father was a commercial pilot so he had always had a love of flying. Very sad to hear about this today.

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Hi Folks,

Yeah - the developers crash was attributed to pilot error flying blind into a canyon and being unable to outclimb rising terrain which is a fairly common problem - Blackwater anyone ?

Still - the car like plane that seems to be a jet ski with wings - would seem to attract the less disciplined, inexperienced, and less risk averse - in the pilot community... It’s “cool”after all...

Hopefully - it was pilot error - as pilots really don’t like to hear about equipment failure being the root cause in a fatal crash...

Obviously - this will probably get some serious scrutiny and only the NTSB report will tell...

Regards,

Scott

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The sad thing is his wife pleated with him not to get the plane, obviously she feared the worst. One poignant thing she said when flying in the plane "You forget you're in a plane", never good to forget that! Sad day for all!

 

 

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A video has recently been released. There are multiple witnesses and a video clearly showing very low level flying taking place. The witness states that the flying was aggressive all week.

That video doesn't look good. He was flying right on the surface. :(

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Perhaps he caught a wing on the water surface when banking while turning, that will end your day in a hurry. Will have to see what the NTSB concludes.

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Or he may have attempted a wheels down landing on the water causing the aircraft to flip over...

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As with a lot of small GA aeroplanes, it might ultimately be difficult to determine the exact cause of the accident. The damage inflicted from a low altitude stall in a turn would be much the same as that for clipping a wing during a low turn, so it would be impossible to find a definitive conclusion if a wing strike is found to have occurred. If it was a wheels down accident, that should be easy to surmise, likewise, many engine problems would be easy to detect from wreckage, especially determining either a stationary or rotating prop on impact.

It does look to me from the wreckage images as though there has been a fuselage break, making a cartwheeling motion a definite possibility, which lends itself toward thinking there may have been a wingtip strike for some reason, although obviously one can't be particularly conclusive from blurry images at a long distance, so this is speculation on my part.

Apparently there are some reports of it having been flown very low down over the water and supposedly some Tweet messages from Halladay mentioning this too, which might have some relevance. Exhilarating it may be to fly low over the water, but it certainly isn't a recommended best practice for that aircraft unless actually intending to land. The sporty looks of the Icon probably don't help in that regard, as it might make one inclined to believe it is more of a performer than it actually is in reality, with its sportscar-like panel and streamlined looks, one still has to remember that it has a flat out speed of just over 100 knots and only just managed to gain certification on the weight limits for its type, so it's probably not going to like being pushed in tight turns.

Moreover, the Icon has a Rotax 912, which, whilst it is a relatively common aero engine these days, being in quite a few trainers such as the Tecnam P92 and Ikarus C42, that engine does nevertheless come with several warnings from the manufacturer of the Rotax in relation to being careful with the flight envelope, notably this:

'Never fly the aircraft equipped with this engine at locations, airspeeds, altitudes, or other circumstances from which a successful no-power landing cannot be made, after sudden engine stoppage. You should be aware that any engine may seize or stall at any time. This could lead to a crash landing and possible severe injury or death.'

Anyone who has ever flown microlights a fair bit, especially a few years ago when they were not quite so reliable as they are these days, will know that it was never entirely unexpected to have a Rotax suddenly stop. That was never too much of an issue if you flew with an eye out for potential fields to pop down into (which to be honest you should really kind of always do in single engined aeroplanes anyway), but it would be something entirely different to have the clockwork stop whilst in a turn at very low altitude over the water in something which has a fair bit of weight and not a great deal of power; that'd be asking for trouble if you didn't have the room to roll it level and get the nose down fairly smartly.

Whatever happened, it's very sad when anyone dies in an aeroplane accident, whether it be through pilot error, or a mechanical failure, or conditions, as it hurts all of us who know the magic and allure of flight to think that what we love has resulted in a tragedy. But such occurrences are no respecters of anyone's stature or fame, and aviation will always be unforgiving to those who don't respect its risks.

 

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I know it's rare to have a FDR in a GA aeroplane, but didn't the Icon have some sort of mandatory camera system on board at the manufacturer's insistence? I seem to recall hearing something about that.

In other news, I see some radio pillock in the US (Michael Felger) on Boston Sports Radio has actually gone on air saying that Halladay was a moronic thrill seeker who deserved to die for having flown that aerolane, which is an appalling thing to say even if there may possibly be a grain of truth in how the aircraft was being piloted. I hope that guy gets taken off air. Apparently he said a similar thing about Dale Earnhardt's death in that NASCAR crash in the same broadcast. What a loathsome character he must be to say stuff like that.

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Many new aircraft with glass panels include a flight data logging system. They record a good number of parameters about the flight every second. I believe that the A5 includes such a system. If it is anything like the G1000, it records data every second including GPS position, airspeed, altitude, attitude, fuel and engine indications and some avionics settings.

It is unlikely to include control positions as those are not digitally managed. I doubt it would include flap or landing gear positions.

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9 hours ago, Chock said:

In other news, I see some radio pillock in the US (Michael Felger) on Boston Sports Radio has actually gone on air saying that Halladay was a moronic thrill seeker who deserved to die for having flown that aerolane

He's apparently apologized... but it's not going over well.  A Boston Globe columnist calls for his suspension.

Can't say much good about U.S. sports talk radio.

The NTSB preliminary report on the May 8 ICON crash refers to a review of "two separate recording devices" and reports on (GPS) altitude, speed and heading information, plus power setting.

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It's looking a lot like it will turn out to be pilot error being the conclusion of the accident investigation, if what is allegedly video footage of the Icon being flown pretty aggressively at low level just before the crash is genuine. The NTSB are apparently saying it was a 'high energy impact', so it probably was a wingtip strike if you look at how that aeroplane is being flown on the video footage, but it could have been a spin entry at low altitude I suppose. Theoretically, the Icon is a spin-resistant design and is promoted as such too, which might be a bad thing in that it's a bit like claiming the Titanic was unsinkable. since the water where the crash occurred is apparently just four feet deep, it is doubtful it was a landing gone wrong, or, if it was a landing attempt, then it'd have been an ill-advised one in that kind of draft.

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Do not discount the fact that one can not judge height when flying over a featureless body of water or a field covered in snow with no trees or man made objects in the field of view.

I believe it is very reasonable to assume that the aircraft was flown under control right into the water. No stall, no bank, no wheels down, no spin. It wouldn't the first time and sadly it won't be the last.

I have done landings on snow covered fields and believe me it can sometimes be very difficult to tell how high you are off the ground. I was advised while receiving this training that landing on water is much the same. The technique is to fly tail low and carefully regulate power in the descent until you contact the ground because it is risky to try and descend in a nose down attitude and flare at the correct height. You might just become a lawn dart if you do that.

Doing maneuvers at low altitude is very risky, doing it over featureless terrain increases the risk significantly. There are many NTSB reports where very lucky pilots of sea planes explained how they flew the aircraft right into a lake or river never realizing how low they were.

Catching a wingtip or flying right into the water seem the most likely scenarios. If power has been lost, a safe landing was all but assured given the aircraft is amphibious.

I can see the writing in the wall for Icon. They are going to get sued big-time for their marketing that promotes flying at low altitude. Not saying it is right, but it is going to happen and they are going to pay.

It angers and frustrates me because what I saw goes against what we are taught to do as pilots. If we want to fly that way that was filmed and described we are supposed to seek out training from professionals. Perhaps he did receive such training, but even then pilots competing in aerobatics aren't even authorized to fly very low for good reason.

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According to the Icon A5 website:

Complete Aircraft Parachute (CAP)

"Safe and Sound. CAP technology has more than 300 documented lives saved, some at altitudes as low as a few hundred feet. So if you encounter the unexpected, we’ve got you covered. Literally."

https://www.iconaircraft.com/a5

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Based on that preliminary report, it is looking like the impact will eventually be determined to have been as a result of a stall off a turn, at too low an altitude to effect a recovery, which is what a lot of people figured might have been the case.

If the altitude reports are correct, it's doubtful the ballistic recovery 'chute would have been much use, so the discovery of the locking pin having been left in place on the ballistic recovery system firing handle is neither here nor there with regard to the outcome for this incident, but since it should have been removed before flight, and apparently wasn't, that is potentially indicative of checklists/procedures not being followed as closely as they should, although whether that indicates an overall cavalier fashion to operational safety is a matter of conjecture.

But if the reports from eye witnesses to the crash and preceding flights in the area are given credence, it seems the aeroplane may have been flown in perhaps not the most diligent fashion, with possibly too much faith placed in the notion of the Icon's 'stall resistant' design.

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I'm curious as to how "stall resistant" is interpreted, given that the report states all light aircraft in the same class as an A5 have to have a stall speed of no higher than 45 knots? Surely any aircraft is stall resistant until its stall speed is reached - even F-18s and Su-27 families will stall and quit flying. Granted - 45 knots is really rather low, and does "seem" safe, but still fast enough to kill, without a plane picking up speed in an ensuing nose-down attitude post-stall.

Does it refer to benign stall characteristics where the plane doesn't demonstrate a tendency to drop a wing or even worse when it departs? Is it that the plane gives you plenty of warning signs - buffeting, loss of control effectiveness etc?

We all know that stall speed increases in a turn, especially if you wish to remain at the same altitude.

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This is a great question as the aircraft can clearly stall, as any aircraft will do when the critical AoA is exceeded. It must be something about the controllability of the aircraft while in a stalled state.

For example, the ailerons on a 172 should remain neutral during a stall add any deflection can result in an incipient spin entry. In the Icon, I understand that the aircraft will respond normally to aileron inputs and not enter an incipient spin. Perhaps this is the part commonly referred to as "departure from controlled flight?"

Personally, I have my doubts about a stall of any sort being part of this accident sequence. I wonder if they will be able to determine this from the available recorded data.

Regardless of what happened in the final moments, I am glad that the NTSB has shared the evidence of reckless behavior in this preliminary report. It can be a while before the final report is produced. This should serve as a warning to those who wish to test the odds. I wonder if the very ones at risk will avail themselves of this information.

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1 hour ago, HighBypass said:

I'm curious as to how "stall resistant" is interpreted, given that the report states all light aircraft in the same class as an A5 have to have a stall speed of no higher than 45 knots? Surely any aircraft is stall resistant until its stall speed is reached

Does it refer to benign stall characteristics where the plane doesn't demonstrate a tendency to drop a wing or even worse when it departs? Is it that the plane gives you plenty of warning signs - buffeting, loss of control effectiveness etc?

 

1 hour ago, Oracle427 said:

This is a great question as the aircraft can clearly stall, as any aircraft will do when the critical AoA is exceeded. It must be something about the controllability of the aircraft while in a stalled state.

Surprising as it may seem, it is actually possible to design an aircraft that will not enter stall.

Keep in mind that the elevator is the primary surface controlling the AoA, so if you design an aircraft whose elevator authority is not enough to reach the critical AoA of the wing, it will not stall even if you pull the yoke to the max, in theory at any speed. What will happen, is that at a certain point the nose will simply point down, but the wing will remain unstalled (and the aircraft controllable, although with limited maneuverability in the vertical plane until the aircraft recovers enough energy to stop sinking).

As far as I know, this is basically how the Icon A5 is designed. Of course the stall-resistance may be dependent on some conditions, e.g. the aircraft may be stall resistant with the cg in mid range, but able to enter stall with cg at rearmost position.

Designing a stall resistant aircraft will probably be a compromise with other aspects of the flight dynamics, giving for example limited pitch authority in some other situations where a "conventional" aircraft will remain instead more maneuverable.

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Strictly speaking, Icon's claim for the A5 is that it is 'spin resistant', rather than 'stall resistant' as far as the marketing literature is concerned, but of course we all know that a spin is basically an asymmetric stall, so it amounts to the same thing.

How that works is like this: If you look at a plan view of the Icon A5, you'll see a dogtooth approximately halfway along the leading edge of each wing. This is the point where the Icon uses a different aerofoil outboard to the aerofoil inboard of that point. It means the inner wing should stall before the outer wing, leaving the ailerons still able to control the wing when the inner wing is stalled since the ailerons are on the outer wing. A similar thing was done on later versions of the Hawker Hunter to make it a bit less vicious aerodynamically.

Spin resistant design in private aeroplanes is nothing new though, the ERCO Ercoupe was around before WW2 and that thing didn't even have any rudder controls at all, it was designed to fly without them and marketed as being resistant to spins.

That's the theory behind how that stuff works anyway.

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