Richard McSpadden, the senior vice president of the AOPA Air Safety Institute, died, along with one other person, in the crash of a Cessna 177RG near Lake Placid Airport in upstate New York Sunday. McSpadden was in the right seat. Russ Francis, a former NFL tight end and the new owner of Lake Placid Airways, was in the left seat according to the Lake Placid News. AOPA spokesman Eric Blinderman told AVweb early reports indicate the Cardinal had “an emergency on takeoff” from Lake Placid shortly before 5 p.m. “They tried to get back but didn’t make the runway,” said Blinderman. The nature of the emergency wasn’t immediately known. He said more information will be available on Monday.
McSpadden was a former commander of the USAF Thunderbirds air demonstration team and joined the Air Safety Institute in 2017. He was well known in the GA community for his analyses of accidents and the safety-related content he and his staff created for free distribution. He was also highly regarded by his many friends and colleagues. “We are beyond heartbroken,” said Blinderman. “This is the worst kind of news to process as a friend, colleague and fellow aviator.” He is survived by his wife, Judy, son Grant and daughter Annabel.