Los Angeles — The tiny sport plane Roy Halladay was flying when he fatally crashed into the Gulf of Mexico was made for entry-level pilots like him, though the plane’s chief designer and test pilot died while flying one earlier this year, officials and experts said.
Halladay, the former Blue Jays and Phillies pitcher, had been the proud owner for less than a month of his ICON A5, and was among the first to fly it, with only about 20 in existence, according to the website for ICON Aviation.
In one of many enthusiastic tweets about the plane, Halladay said it felt “like flying a fighter jet.”
TMZ Sports obtained video which appeared to show Halladay making chancey maneuvers in the moments before his crash — extreme and unusual changes in altitude — according to multiple witnesses.
National Transportation Safety Board Investigator Noreen Price said Halladay’s ICON A5 experienced a “high-energy impact” with the water.
She said both flight data recorders were recovered and the plane did not have a voice recorder.
She said Halladay had been a licensed pilot since 2013 and logged about 700 hours of flight time before Tuesday’s crash near Tampa. She said a preliminary report on the cause likely will be issued in seven to 10 days, but the full investigation could take up to two years.
Rolled out in 2014, the A5 is an amphibious aircraft meant to be treated like an ATV, a piece of weekend recreational gear with folding wings that can easily be towed on a trailer to a lake where it can take off from the water.
“The way that a lot of people described it is a Jet Ski with wings,” Stephen Pope, editor-in-chief of Flying magazine, told The Associated Press. “It’s really a play thing.”
The man who led the plane’s design, John Murray Karkow, 55, died while flying an A5 over California’s Lake Berryessa on May 8, in a crash the National Transportation Safety Board blamed on pilot error. The NTSB also will investigate Halladay’s crash to determine the cause.
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.
Halladay’s ICON A5 went down around noon Tuesday off the coast of Florida, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said.