A jury in Anchorage, Alaska, has favored Cessna in a lawsuit concerning the crash of a Caravan near Dillingham in October 2001. The plaintiffs were related to the 10 people killed in the crash.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers claimed that design defects made the Caravan dangerous to fly in icing conditions. The jury, agreeing with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), found that no design defects contributed to the loss. The NTSB report concluded, in January 2003, that “an in-flight loss of control (resulted) from upper surface ice contamination that the pilot-in-command failed to detect during his preflight inspection.”
Cessna, while expressing sympathy to the families and friends of those who died in the crash, pointed out that the jury’s (and NTSB’s) verdict shows that the Cessna 208 “is well designed and safe when flown within the parameters of the pilots operating handbook.”
The NTSB report stated that a factor in the accident was “the lack of a preflight inspection requirement to examine at close range the upper surface of the wing for ice contamination when ground ice conditions exist.” That requirement went on the FAA books last March, when the agency issued an AD requiring both a visual and a “tactile” check of Caravan wing leading edges and upper surfaces, to at least two feet aft of the deicing boot, when there is ground ice. The AD requires that the “tactile check” – actually feeling the wing – must be done within five minutes of takeoff.
Many Caravan operators, particularly those flying night freight, object on the grounds that their airplanes usually are in poorly lit runup areas at that time. Checking wings then would be more dangerous than flying with a little ice on the wings, they say. The FAA continues to disagree.