Richard McSpadden: “Last Lesson!”

“Gut punch” is how more than one person hearing the news of Richard’s untimely death described their reaction – total incredulous shock and pain. There was lots of crying and disbelief to come to terms with this bitter news. This is a loss we all will have to process over time, but will never get over.

There might be a “last lesson” here that Richard delivered shortly before his untimely death: how important it is to be mindful of consequences and pursue excellence in every aspect of our flying. We do our best and fate decides the rest (as Ernest K. Gann also wrote years ago in Fate is the Hunter).

When a pilot perishes in an aircraft accident, suddenly—in an instant—they’re gone. They blast a hole in the lives of spouses, children, grandchildren, and close friends that can never be filled by anyone else. The mourners learn to cope with the loss, but they never get over it. Our lives are just one of many influenced by the decisions we make in the cockpit, even when we fly solo. Richard McSpadden

Richard was a wonderfully warm person who shared his remarkable aviation talent and knowledge freely. His trademark smile and 400-watt blue eyes lit up every room. He listened as intently as he spoke, a rare talent. And he was the last person anyone would expect to perish in an aircraft; just too talented and intelligent. But life is not fair and gravity, unfortunately, always wins. As Paul Bertorelli said in his remembrances, I almost do not want to see the results of this accident investigation; just too painful and personal.

But as the wonderful AOPA tribute video says, the last thing Richard would want for any of us is to stop flying out of fear. A natural reaction is to say “if it can happen to Richard…” But the fact is we should take this as Richard’s last lesson: Keep flying and strive for excellence. Always work hard to mitigate the risks of aviation with study, training, and vigilance. Keep flying and be continuously mindful. Bad things in aviation do not play favorites, every flight has risks and surprises. Aviation, and life, are high-consequence activities. Fly safely out there and often!

Carefully examine 180° Turn back HERE

Take-off is the riskiest phase of flight. Landing accidents comprise 47% of accidents but are 99% non-fatal. Take-off accidents, high-nose/high-power, are 3X less common but 20X more likely to be fatal!

See “SAFE SOCIAL WALL” FOr more Resources

Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our newly reformulated Mentoring Program is open to every CFI (and those working on the rating) Join our new Mentoring FaceBook Group.

Author: David St. George

SAFE Director, Master CFI (12X), FAA DPE, ATP (ME/SE) Currently jet charter captain.

4 thoughts on “Richard McSpadden: “Last Lesson!””

  1. I hope everyone will be willing to wait to hear what the NTSB has to say after their investigation rather than Monday-morning quarterbacking with insufficient evidence. No doubt that, in his final moments, he still had something to tell us but his “words” will only come from the NTSB.

  2. I am a contrarian on the issue of ‘speculation’. I have learned MANY! lessons in my 4+ decades of flying. A lot more than one came from the thoughtful speculations of experienced pilots. I strongly believe EVERY mishap, fatal or not, offers me (us!) that moment when reflection, self examination, and SPECULATION about what was the tripwire that caught this well experienced (maybe), very capable (maybe), novice (maybe) pilot and perhaps ended a life… is a gift to me, and to you. That gift is the opportunity to cast about for WHY this pilot experienced this mishap.

    1. Speculation appears in different forms concerning an aircraft accident. The first form is normal and indeed encouraged. This is private speculation. You will find this type among pilots where it manifests itself well outside the public domain. This is the type of speculation you have described in your post.
      Investigators as well will speculate as an investigation proceeds. This is also done “in house” and privately.
      The second form of speculation is public speculation. It is in this category we find the monday morning quarterbacking most of us in the aviation community dislike so much.
      It is important to differentiate between these two types of speculation when we as pilots discuss this issue as the first type is completely acceptable and the second type is not only frowned upon but can be extremely damaging.

Tell us what *you* think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.