Roy Halladay skimmed the Gulf of Mexico and flew his aircraft within 75 feet of beach-adjacent homes before his crash earlier this month, according to a preliminary report released Monday by the National Transportation Safety Board. The agency did not provide a specific cause of the fatal incident that occurred earlier this month, but it used data retrieved from the former pitcher’s plane to detail his 17-minute flight.
Halladay was the only person aboard his two-seat ICON A5, an amphibious plane with folding wings designed to serve as a recreational vehicle, when it plunged into the gulf near Tampa on Nov. 7. The two-time Cy Young Award winner, who was 40, was found with his plane, which was upside down in about 4.5 feet of water.
NTSB investigators said in their report that Halladay took off from a lake near his home in Odessa, Fla., located north of Tampa, and climbed to just over 1,900 feet before descending as he neared the coastline. When Halladay crossed over U.S. Route 19, a highway that runs along Florida’s West coast before ending on the south side of Tampa Bay, he was at about 600 feet.
When Halladay reached water, he was only 36 feet in the air, and he subsequently skimmed the surface at 11 feet while traveling at about 105 mph. He then passed close to the homes, and his last recorded altitude was about 200 feet.
A witness told the NTSB that he saw the plane climb to between 300 and 500 feet before turning and going into a dive at about a 45-degree angle. TMZ Sports published video of a plane reported to be Halladay’s flying very low over the gulf, and witnesses told the website that the aircraft was repeatedly making sharp ascents and descents to within a few feet of the water.
The former Blue Jays and Phillies ace, who retired in 2013, logged about 700 hours of flight time starting in that year, according to the report. He had 51 hours in A5 planes, including 14 in the one that crashed, which he acquired in October.
Halladay shared his excitement about his new plane on social media. “Real life is better than my dreams!!” he said in one post.
“Sadly, this looks like a typical case of pilot hot-dogging,” Ross Aimer, a 33,000-hour pilot who heads an aviation consulting firm, told the Tampa Bay Times. Aimer noted that Halladay “came way too close” to the beach-adjacent properties and could have been subject to punishment from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The NTSB has yet to determine to what degree the crash was caused by Halladay’s maneuvers, or if there were technical or structural malfunctions. The man who led the design of the A5 died while flying one in California, and the agency cited pilot error as the cause in that case.
(H/T Associated Press)
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