Icon A5 2
This plane makes aviation easy
01:09 - Source: CNN

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Former pitcher Roy Halladay killed in a plane crash off Florida's Gulf Coast

NTSB cited pilot error in Icon chief test pilot's fatal crash in May

CNN  — 

Designed to make flying simple, the Icon A5 has been described as a sports car with wings that maneuvers like a Jet Ski.

Former Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies pitching great Roy Halladay died Tuesday in a plane crash in the A5, which was found upside down in shallow water off Florida’s Gulf Coast. Halladay, 40, was the only person on the two-seater plane.

It was the second fatal crash involving the A5 this year.

In May, Jon Karkow, Icon’s chief test pilot who was responsible for the plane’s design, died in a crash in California. Cagri Sever, a new employee who was in the passenger’s seat, also was killed.

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the probable cause of that accident was pilot error. The plane had been flying at Lake Berryessa, a reservoir with coves, canyons and steep rising terrain.

“It is likely that the pilot mistakenly thought the canyon that he entered was a different canyon that led to the larger, open portion of the lake,” according to the NTSB’s aviation accident report.

Instead, there was no exit from that canyon. “The airplane would have not been able to climb out of the rising terrain that surrounded the area, which led to his failure to maintain clearance from terrain,” according to the NTSB report.

In a May statement, Shane Sullivan, Icon’s director of flight, said, “We’re unsure why the plane flew into such a narrow canyon that had no outlet.

Icon initially suspended all flight operations of the A5 fleet after the accident but resumed them after NTSB’s preliminary report.

NTSB embarks on probe

The NTSB is investigating the latest crash.

Noreen Price, the investigator in charge, told reporters on Wednesday the craft hit waters near New Port Richey at 12:06 p.m. on Tuesday after departing Odessa. She said there was one occupant and he received fatal injuries.

The plane was located in 4 feet of water, Price said, and “all major components were accounted for.”

“It looked like a high energy impact but all the pieces were there. Most everything was attached but it was a high-energy impact.”

She said the wreckage was recovered and was to be moved to a secure facility for a more detailed review. Two data recorders have been recovered and will be sent to the NTSB lab, she said.

A timeline is being started and witness interviews have begun, she said.

Price said the pilot racked up 700 flight hours, according to his logbook. The NTSB will be looking at weather and air traffic. Investigators will be looking at the pilot’s training, experience and medical status.

Any witnesses who have photos or videos of the plane flying or the accident should contact the NTSB at witness@ntsb.gov.

“The full investigation will take approximately one to two years,” she said.

There were no distress calls from the plane, the Pasco County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office said. Price also said the preliminary information indicates that no mayday call was made.

But it is still early in the investigation.

“Very often it takes days for this information to come out,” she said, “And then we find out differently.”

A brand new aircraft

The certification for the plane was issued Monday, meaning the aircraft was brand new, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s website.

Icon Aircraft expressed its condolences to Halladay’s family and friends.

“Icon will do everything it can to support the accident investigation going forward and we will comment further when more information is available,” a statement said.

Icon A5s are considered light, amphibious airplanes. They can land on water or land, have folding wings and can be transported by trailers.

The controls of the Icon A5 have been likened to that of a sports car. It has been described as so intuitive that the company said even a novice can learn to fly in less than 30 hours.

The recreational aircraft can be flown by anyone holding a sport pilot license, which takes about half the time to get as a standard license.

The first production units were delivered in July 2015.

In a video about the A5 that the company removed but was preserved elsewhere, Halladay said he grew up around airplanes, because his dad was a pilot.

The former pitcher said he always wanted to get his pilot’s license but wasn’t able to do so while playing baseball. After retirement, Halladay pursued his love of flight.

CNN’s Steve Almasy and Joe Sterling contributed to this report.