Frozen runway results in loss of control

Aircraft: Cessna 172. Injuries: None. Location: Grand Isle, Vt. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: Before departing for a private airport, the pilot called the owner of the destination airport to inquire about the condition of the turf runway. The area had been subject to rain and below freezing temperatures in the days prior to the accident. The owner of the airport reported that the runway appeared to be “okay.”

Upon reaching the destination airport, the pilot conducted two approaches to the runway that were steeper and faster than he desired, and he aborted both landing attempts.

On the third approach, the plane touched down about 500 feet from the runway threshold. During the rollout, the pilot realized that he had little braking effectiveness and was unable to stop the plane. The airplane went off the departure end of the runway and into trees.

The pilot and an FAA inspector reported that, although the grass on the runway appeared normal from the air, there was actually a layer of ice underneath, resulting in slick runway conditions.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inability to stop the airplane on a grass runway with undetected ice.

NTSB Identification: ERA12CA162

This January 2012 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

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