My condolences to the family of Roy Halladay, by all accounts a talented and generous person with so much potential. Not only has the world lost this amazing person, but aviation has suffered another very public black eye with the repeating question “How can this happen?” From what has become available so far, there seems to be some avoidable risks in the recent Icon A5 crash that could have been mitigated.
Identifying and mitigating risks is the essence of aviation safety and this includes the psychological discipline of saying NO to “having too much fun”. Exercising “executive function” and knowing where and when *not* to fly is critical to safety. (See Dr. Bill Rhodes “Pilots Who Should Scare Us”) Maintaining adequate altitude in the cruise phase of flight is one of our critical margins of safety as pilots. Low level maneuvering flight (below 1000 feet) usually comprises only 15% of our exposure as pilots but is where over 70% of fatalities occur. Loss of control accidents are disproportionately represented in this phase of flight. If you add intentional radical maneuvers this only asks for trouble. This type of demonstration flying, though exciting, requires a highly trained professional pilot and a aerodynamically robust high-G machine. This precise and demanding flying should be left to airshow pros! There is no way a new pilot should be flying an LSA in this manner.
And as Steve Pope of Flying Magazine has pointed out, marketing this kind of low level “yank and bank” flying as an obtainable and safe activity is scary to many veteran pilots.
Pope said “the plane itself is great,” but he had concerns about Halladay, a new pilot with little flying time, taking the craft out over water at low altitude, though the plane was marketed as a craft that could do that.
“They still think that that’s the way the airplane should be flown, and there are people in aviation who completely disagree with that,” Pope said. “They think you should not have a low-time pilot flying low over water. That’s a recipe for disaster.”
This kind of behavior in the hands of new pilots will certainly lead to more accidents. We will be talking about the aerodynamics and psychology of loss of control (LOC-I) this Thursday the 16th at 8PM EST with aerobatic champion Patty Wagstaff and upset training specialist Rich Stowell. This livestream is presented by the FAA and qualifies participants for FAA Master Wings. As an additional incentive, our generous sponsors at Lightspeed Aviation are providing a Zulu 3 headset to be offered to a random winner at the end of the show; please join us.
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