The NTSB has issued its preliminary report in the crash of former MLB pitching star Roy Halladay, and the evidence that investigators have shared is surprising almost no one. Investigators also have a wealth of information to base their findings on, as the Icon A5 was outfitted with a slew of instruments that record flight data of various kinds. The information the NTSB released gave some clues, but it was the information it chose not to release that was even more interesting.
Halladay, a likely Baseball Hall of Fame inductee when he becomes eligible in 2019, was killed in a crash of his newly acquired Icon A5 on November 7. The crash took place just off of Florida’s Gulf Coast near Port Richey, near where Halladay has a home.
In its report, the NTSB wrote that Halladay took off from a private waterfront home, flew the four miles to the coast, and then proceeded to fly a series of maneuvers low over the water and as close as 75 feet from homes along the shore. Federal Aviation Regulations require pilots to keep their planes at least 500 feet from people or homes.
The report confirms the sense that some industry observers got from the short video footage first shown by TMZ, that Halladay was maneuvering aggressively at low level. Of note is the report’s mention that the last known maneuver was a steep climb and then a sudden descent with a 45-degree nose down attitude. “The last data point recovered,” the report goes on to state, “indicated the airplane at an altitude of 200 ft, a speed of 87 knots, and tracking 196°” while, according to the witness statement, the plane was in a steeply banked turn.
This data raises the question, at what point, if any, did Halladay lose control of the plane? And did the airplane stall at any point in that final maneuver before the crash? The NTSB did not go into detail on the airspeed of the plane at different points of the crash sequence, but that data, if available, and it presumably will be, could help investigators determine how Halladay got to the point that a crash would have been practically impossible to avoid.
The NTSB didn’t say when it would issue a final report, but those reports, which include a statement of probable cause, typically take a year to complete.