Three Small Plane Accidents in Tampa Bay

Have you ever flow out of Tampa International Airport or St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport? If you have, you know that the scenery is beautiful when you’re up in the air! This is why it’s no surprise that Tampa Bay is a popular destination for aviators, particularly small plane pilots. But unfortunately, this also means that Tampa Bay sees its fair share of accidents involving small planes. In recent months, our area has seen three small plane accidents — two miraculous, and one tragic.

Two Accidents Near Albert Whitted

Two of the accidents involved Albert Whitted Airport, a small airport near downtown St. Petersburg that is popular with small plane pilots. The first accident took place when a pilot-assembled plane rolled off the runway and into the water. It’s unclear if the accident happened during takeoff or landing. The plane’s passenger was able to free herself, while a bystander jumped into the water to free the pilot.

The second accident occurred when a Cessna aircraft, headed for Albert Whitted, crash-landed in the middle of the road. Thinking quickly, the pilot managed to avoid hitting any homes. However, he did come into contact with two vehicles, including a car carrying a grandmother and her two-year-old grandson. No one was seriously injured. Relieved witnesses say the accident could have been much worse, if it were not for the skills of the pilot.

MLB Pitcher Killed in Small Plane Crash

The latest small plane accident happened near New Port Richey, with results much more tragic than the two St. Petersburg accidents. On November 7th, there were reports of a small plane, an Icon A5, in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It turned out that the plane belonged to Roy Halladay, a retired pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies and the Toronto Blue Jays. Halladay, who was 40 years old, was the only person in the plane, and was killed in the crash. Witnesses say that Halladay was flying low to the water when he crashed, landing upside down in the water.

While accidents involving commercials flights are rare, small plane accidents happen more frequently than you might think. In fact, 97% of all crash fatalities involve “general aviation,” which includes any aircraft that isn’t a commercial airline. This includes private and corporate planes, but also gliders, parachutes, and other less-conventional means of air travel. In general aviation, there is about 1 death per every 100,000 hours flown. In contrast, there are 12.5 fatalities for every million hours flown on commercial flights.

Why are Small Planes so Dangerous?

There are many reasons why small, private planes are significantly more dangerous than commercial aircrafts. For one, the pilots of small planes often have less experience. This does not mean that they are not as talented as the pilots of commercial aircrafts, but rather than they do not fly planes for a living; as a result, they simply do not have as much experience.

Small aircrafts and commercial airlines crashes often involve similar difficulties. These include mechanical failure, dangerous weather conditions, or “wildlife strikes,” which occur when animals, mainly birds, are sucked into the engines. However, experienced airline pilots might be better equipped at safely dealing with these obstacles, while a less-experienced pilot might not properly react, leading to an even worse situation.

Additionally, the manufacturing of small and private planes often does not get the same scrutiny as the manufacturing of commercial planes. In some cases, pilots even manufacture their own aircrafts, as the pilot in the runway accident at Albert Whitted Airport did. Due to a lack of regulation or amateur manufacturing, small planes are more likely to experience mechanical issues, like engine failure.

After a Small Plane Accident

Liability for a plane accident can be difficult to determine, as there are many factors to consider. When the accident is caused by pilot error, the pilot is potentially liable for the injuries or deaths of any passengers or others. If a manufacturing defect contributed to the accident, the company or supplier of parts could be potentially liable. Sometimes, even the location of the accident can factor into the liability.

Though we have seen three accidents recently, including Roy Halladay’s tragic death, small plane accidents don’t have to be so common. Like with car accidents, a small plane accident is easily avoidable through awareness, preparation, and responsible decisions. Stay safe in the skies!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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