On Sunday, October 1, 2023. Well-known general aviation pilot and educator Richard McSpadden ‘flew west’, quite unexpectedly. Richard had most recently served all of GA in his role as Sr. VP., AOPA Air Safety Institute, (ASI).
He and another pilot, former AFL football player Russ Francis were departing Lake Placid, New York, KLKP, in a single engine Cessna Cardinal 177RG, and shortly after takeoff the aircraft developed some kind of problem, and apparently they tried to turn back, and crashed short of the runway. Both died on impact. A tragic loss for all.
Richard was actively involved in the general aviation community, as pilot and educator. Before joining AOPA, in 2017, Richard had had 2 previous careers. He first spent 20 years in the USAF as a pilot, and during that time had become the Lead pilot for the Thunderbirds, the Air Force aerial demonstration team. And then after he retired from the Air Force, he worked in the IT industry for several years, before leaving that to join AOPA, in 2017.
Richard was well known in the general aviation world because he was actively involved. He was not ‘stuck in the office’. Instead, he participated in several general aviation organizations. He traveled and spent time in the field, as part of his work in support of aviation safety. He also wrote columns for AOPA’s Pilot Magazine. And he produced content for the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s YouTube channel. In fact, recently he was making videos offering commentary on some recent accidents, for both piston and turbine aircraft.
I had met Richard a few times while at AirVenture over the past few summers. He was always easily approachable, very personable, and there was great camaraderie with him. And he was the guest speaker in 2022 at the annual SAFE Dinner, an organization of aviation educators, of which I am one of the founding members, back in 2009. Through his work with the Air Safety Institute, he made a difference in all of our lives as pilots. Godspeed, Richard. You will be missed! Condolences to the families.