Failure to remove ice results in an off-airport landing

These February 2003 Accident Reports are provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, they are intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

Aircraft: Beech 18.

Location: Burlington, Wash.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Minor.

What reportedly happened: During the preflight inspection the pilot noticed there was ice and frost adhering to the airplane. He applied glycol and brushed off the frost. He warmed up the engines before taking off and decided to stay in the pattern in order to clear the airplane of the ice, and to make sure everything was working properly. Before releasing the brakes, he brought the power up to make sure the engines were functioning normally. The pilot stated that for takeoff he tried to baby the engines by using less than maximum power for the departure. The tail of the airplane came up about three-quarters of the way down the runway. Seeing the end of the runway rapidly approaching, the pilot added more power and the aircraft lifted off. The landing gear was raised when a positive rate of climb was attained. Shortly after gear retraction the pilot stated that the aircraft began to feel mushy. He increased power, but the aircraft continued to descend.

The aircraft came to rest in an open field approximately a quarter mile from the end of the runway. After the accident, ice was still noted adhering to most of the airplane.

Probable cause: The failure to adequately remove ice and frost from the aircraft and to maintain airspeed during the initial climb after takeoff.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: Wellington, Kan.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting a VFR flight at night. He obtained a preflight weather briefing approximately four hours prior to initiating the accident flight, however no record of an update briefing was found. The weather at the time of the accident flight indicated the probability of thunderstorms. The pilot was a non-instrument rated private pilot. He had logged 35 hours of night flight time and 3.6 hours of simulated instrument time, but no actual instrument flight time. His most recently logged flight was nearly four months earlier. The pilot obtained VFR flight following en route. Approximately 43 miles from his intended destination, he reported to the controller, “I’m going to have to drop down. I went into cloud cover here 3,500.” The controller then notified the pilot that weather conditions in the vicinity of his intended destination were below VFR weather minimums. The pilot told the controller turbulence was bouncing him around. He elected to divert to an alternate airport 14 miles east of his position. This decision was based on an automated report, current at the time but taken nearly an hour earlier, of clear skies. An automated report for the alternate airport, coincidentally taken at the time of the accident, reported the ceiling at 800 feet agl. A motorist driving on the interstate reported seeing the aircraft three times. On the third occasion he stated the aircraft flew across the highway traveling at a “high rate of speed.” He recalled thinking the aircraft was approaching to land.

A post-accident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no anomalies consistent with a pre-impact failure.

Probable cause: Spatial disorientation experienced by the pilot and his subsequent failure to maintain control of the aircraft. Contributing factors were the failure to obtain an updated preflight weather briefing prior to the return flight, his attempted flight into known adverse weather, the darkness and the low ceilings.

Aircraft: Beech Bonanza.

Location: Grand Rapids, Mich.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: A CFI and an instrument student were flying in instrument meteorological conditions. According to the CFI, the takeoff was normal and they entered the clouds at 700 feet agl. A few minutes later the CFI noticed that the aircraft was in a 30° bank. The CFI attempted to correct the bank, then noticed that the bank angle had increased to more than 60°. The CFI assumed that the gyroscopic vacuum instruments had failed. The aircraft broke out of the clouds in a high-speed diving left turn. The CFI pulled up abruptly to recover control of the aircraft and they returned to the departure airport.

A post-flight inspection discovered the wings and horizontal stabilizer skins were wrinkled and the wing spars were buckled. The gyroscopic instruments were functioning normally. However, the turn coordinator was inoperative.

Probable cause: The failure to maintain control, which resulted in the overload of the aircraft. Spatial disorientation, an inoperative turn coordinator, and the misinterpretation of the flight instruments were contributing factors.

Aircraft: Cessna 180.

Location: Klamath Falls, Ore.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The private pilot was attempting to land on runway 32. The winds were from 290° at nine knots. The pilot felt the first approach was unstable, so he initiated a go around. He made a second approach and landed on the runway. During the landing roll, a gust of wind caught the aircraft’s left wing and lifted it. The pilot tried to compensate for the wind, but was unsuccessful. The airplane nosed over. No mechanical difficulties or malfunctions were reported.

Probable cause: The failure to adequately compensate for wind conditions while landing.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: Waskish, Minn.

Injuries: 1 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to takeoff from a snow-covered lake. In the middle of the takeoff roll, he realized that the aircraft was unable to lift off because he was taking off with a tailwind. When he tried to abort the takeoff, the aircraft hit a snow bank.

Probable cause: The inadequate preflight planning/preparation by the pilot. Contributing factors were the snow-covered takeoff area and the tailwind.

Aircraft: Cessna 210.

Location: Morrilton, Ark.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: As the 2,000-hour pilot approached the airport, he did his prelanding checks, which included lowering the landing gear. The gear stopped midway down. The pilot checked the circuit breaker that controlled the electric hydraulic pump, and found it to be engaged. He then cycled the gear switch to no avail. The pilot flew over the airport and received visual confirmation from ground personnel that the nose landing gear was in the down position. However, both main landing gear were only half way down. An attempt to deploy the gear using the emergency landing gear hand pump was unsuccessful. The pilot elected to perform a gear-up landing.

The post landing inspection of the aircraft revealed that the flex line connected to the nose gear hydraulic cylinder was chafed and ruptured. The ruptured line allowed all of the hydraulic fluid to be pumped overboard and rendered both the electric primary pump and the hand-operated emergency pump inoperative.

Probable cause: The failure of the main landing gear to extend and lock, as a result of a hydraulic fluid leak caused by a chafed and ruptured flex line.

Aircraft: Piper Comanche.

Location: Florence, S.C.

Injuries: 3 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The CFI, who held airplane single and multi-engine land and instrument ratings, was attempting to fly a cross-country instrument flight on a moonless night. According to radar data, at about 6:49 p.m., the airplane’s altitude was 800 feet, and the controller instructed the pilot to climb. The controller asked the pilot if he was having problems. The pilot responded that he needed a radar heading and he was at 1,800 feet and climbing. At 6:50, he requested to land in the closest “weed field.” Air traffic control gave the pilot a heading and the distance to the nearest airport. At 6:52, the pilot radioed that he was having a hard time maintaining altitude. Radar and radio contact was lost at 6:53.

The next morning the wreckage was found six miles from the airport. Examination of the wreckage did not reveal any airframe or mechanical malfunctions.

Probable cause: The pilot experienced spatial disorientation, which resulted in a loss of control and the subsequent collision with the ground.

Aircraft: Cessna 152.

Location: Lockhart, Texas.

Injuries: 1 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened:

The 20-hour student pilot was on his first solo flight. He was attempting to do touch and goes on runway 18. The runway measured 4,000 by 75 feet. The wind at the time of the accident was from 230° at 10 knots. When the aircraft touched down the first time it veered to the left. The student pilot did not regain directional control and the aircraft went off the runway and into the grass, then bounced back into the air. The student pilot still couldn’t regain control of the aircraft and it hit a small house adjacent to airport property.

Probable cause:

The failure to compensate for the existing wind conditions. A contributing factor was the prevailing crosswind.

Aircraft: Piper Super Cub.

Location: Soldotna, Alaska.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Minor.

What reportedly happened:

The pilot intended to use a frozen lake as a runway. The pilot stated that before takeoff he walked a large portion of the lake to check its suitability for use as a runway. He noted there was about two inches of water on top of the ice from a recent rain, but he felt the lake was suitable for takeoff. The aircraft gained enough flying speed to lift the tailwheel off the surface. Just as the weight of the airplane transferred to the main wheels, the wheels entered a deeper pool of water and the aircraft nosed over.

Probable cause:

The pilot’s selection of unsuitable terrain for takeoff and his failure to maintain aircraft control, which resulted in a nose over. A factor contributing to the accident was standing puddles of water on the frozen lake.

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