Retired baseball pitcher Roy Halladay died yesterday in his brand-new Icon A5. The Icon A5 is a light sport plane, although Halladay apparently was a full private pilot. He received his training and license in 2014, after he retired from baseball.
The A5 has a number of safety-minded features, including an angle-of-attack indicator, a Ballistic Recovery Systems parachute, and control elements apparently designed to create benign stalling characteristics. When the model was first introduced, there were other, more controversial features, including mandatory cockpit audio and video recording. After consumer outcry, those requirements were dropped. One requirement not dropped was an agreement to hold the manufacturer blameless in the event of an accident (i.e., no lawsuits).
The Icon was being marketed to the non-aviation community as an airborne version of motorized vehicles just as jet skis, ATVs, and motorcycles. In other words, as just another toy for thrill seekers.
As for the accident, of which there are few details, all the warning signs are present: rich guy with a competitive personality, newly certificated, with a fancy new airplane. It remains to be seen how the pilot came to crash a plane designed to be flown low and slow, with ample safety margins.
But then, what is slow for a normal airplane is very fast when you’re flying a “jet ski with wings,” just over the water.