Richard McSpadden, Senior Vice President of Aopa Air Safety Institute, Killed in A Crash

Last Updated on October 2, 2023, 11:31 pm

Two killed in an airplane crash at Lake Placid Airport.

Richard McSpadden Died
Richard McSpadden (Image via Facebook)

Two were killed in an Airplane crash at Lake Placid Airport on Sunday, October 1, 2023. Richard McSpadden and Russ Francis died in a Cessna 177 Cardinal RG crash near Lake Placid Airport. Richard, head of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) vice president, was in the right seat, and Russ Francis, a former NFL tight end and new owner of Lake Placid Airways, was in the left seat of the Airplane.

What happened to Richard McSpadden?

He was flying a Cessna 177 Cardinal RG aeroplane when it crashed near the LakePlacid Airport runway. Both occupants of the Airplane died in the crash. According to the reports, the Cardinal (the Airplane) experienced “an emergency on the takeoff” from Lake Placid Airport shortly before 5 p.m.

An AOPA spokesman, Eric Blinderman, told a local news channel, “they tried to get back but didn’t make the runway.” The airfield was classified as a crime scene and remained closed to the public around 5 p.m.

Several Airplanes were airborne and were directed to land elsewhere at the airport. Not much has been learned about the circumstances that led to the fatal crash. More information regarding the crash will be provided to the public on Monday.

The Cessna Cardinal that Richard McSpadden, 63, and Russ Francis, 70, were flying crashed, resulting in their deaths. The National Transportation Safety Board is overseeing the inquiry. According to a preliminary incident report from the Federal Aviation Administration, the jet “crashed under unknown circumstances short of the runway.”

Who was Richard McSpadden?

Richard was senior vice president of AOPA Air Safety Institute. He was also a former commander of the UAF Thunderbirds air demonstration team. He dedicated twenty years of his life to the service of his country with the Air Force of the United States of America. He commanded Thunderbirds from 2002-2004.

He joined the Air Safety Institute in 2017. He was a renowned name in the aviation community and respected for his analyses of accidents and safety-related content he created with his staff for free distribution. Everyone who had the privilege to know him held him in the highest regard. He was well-respected in the community. He is survived by his wife Judy, son Grant, and daughter Annabel.


The community came together to pay respects to the late Col. Ret. Richard McSpadden and offer condolences to the family and friends.

Rosa Benitez wrote,

“My deep condolences and prayers for the family and friends. And USAF Veteran, for the loss of Col McSpadden, thank you for your dedicated 20 Service. We all Americans salute and your followers, pilots. R.l.P. God Bless everyone, USAF.”

Gregory Feith, an aviation safety analyst, paid tribute and wrote,

“Update – My good friend, Richard McSpadden, was one of the two pilots who perished in the crash of a Cessna 177 today at Lake Placid Airport. He was a former Commander of the Thunderbirds, a very knowledgeable aviator and an outstanding advocate of aviation safety for AOPA.

Early information indicates they had just departed and had an emergency situation right after takeoff and crashed off the end of the runway. The aviation safety community has lost a prince of a guy and a real aviation safety expert! I will continue to follow up with info as I get it.”


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