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Updated: Lake Placid Accident Claims Russ Francis and Richard McSpadden

NFL Star and AOPA V.P. Perish in C177 Mishap

Retired New England Patriots tight end Russ Francis (70) and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) senior vice-president and Air Safety Foundation head Richard McSpadden (63) perished on Sunday, 01 October 2023 when a Cessna 177 Cardinal single-engine airplane piloted by the one-time NFL star went down shortly after departing Upstate New York’s Lake Placid Airport (LKP).

The mishap, which saw the aircraft come to ground northeast of LKP Runway 04/32 in the vicinity of the North Elba Athletic Fields, occurred at approximately 16:09 EDT.

Agencies responding to the accident included: Lake Placid emergency services, the New York State Police, the Saranac Lake Volunteer Rescue Squad, and forest rangers in the service of New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

An initial Federal Aviation Administration report pertaining to the instance states the accident-aircraft: “… crashed under unknown circumstances short of the runway.”

In a post-accident statement, AOPA set forth: “The Cessna 177 Cardinal, in which Richard was in the right-seat, experienced an emergency after takeoff. The airplane attempted to return to the airport but failed to make the runway.”

The Association added: “Richard was a very accomplished pilot, including serving as commander of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds during his military career, and a trusted colleague, friend, son, husband, and father.”

During his time as commander of the USAF Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron, McSpadden led one-hundred performances, flying the lead aircraft in each.

Mr. McSpadden is survived by his wife, Judy; his son, Grant; and his daughter, Annabel.

A first-round NFL draft pick, three time Pro Bowl selection, and member of the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl XIX-winning squad, Russ Francis played a total of 13 NFL seasons split between stints with the Patriots and the 49ers. Francis was an avid pilot who’d recently acquired scenic tour operation Lake Placid Airways.

Formerly known as Adirondack Flying Service, Lake Placid Airways was purchased by Francis and business partner Mr. Rives Potts in July 2023. Francis reportedly functioned as the air-carrier’s president.

Previously, Francis owned a helicopter charter operation in his native Hawaii. Moreover, he founded the Aloha State’s first civilian air-ambulance service. Francis’s personal aircraft included a P-51 Mustang and a Hawker Sea Fury, both of which he flew.

Following the public disclosure of Francis’s death, the New England Patriots organization released a statement setting forth: “We are deeply saddened by the sudden and tragic loss of former New England Patriots tight end Russ Francis. Our condolences are extended to Francis’ family and friends.”

The Patriots named Francis to the club’s All-1970s and 35th Anniversary Teams. Francis finished his gridiron career with 393 receptions for 5,262 yards and forty touchdowns.

North Elba town supervisor Derek Doty remarked: "Russ Francis and I became close friends right away. His energy was infectious, and he was so excited to be an integral part of our community. A terrible tragedy. I will delay any further comments until after consoling his family."

The Lake Placid Airport is owned by the town of North Elba. Since 1962, 17 aircraft accidents have occurred at the field.

The staff of Aero-News Network extends its condolences to the families and friends of Richard McSpadden and Russ Francis.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov


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