Before the accident flight, the commercial pilot had conducted three flights in the Cessna 208B, during which parachutists were successfully dropped.
After each flight, he returned the empty airplane to a dry grass 1,950′ airstrip in Baldwin, Wisconsin, and conducted full-stop landings.
Because the temperature was over 90° with high humidity, he requested that his manifests allow only up to 14 parachutists and a longer time between shutdowns to ensure sufficient time for adequate engine cooling before the next flight.
The pilot reported that pop-up rain showers had been passing north and south of his base airport throughout the morning, but that they never came closer than 10 to 15 miles.
While preparing for the accident flight, he noted that clouds were over the intended drop zone but that there was no rain. The clouds were moving away from the northern edge of the drop zone, so he decided that it was worth attempting the flight.
While climbing through 4,000′, an air traffic controller advised the pilot that light-to-moderate precipitation was in the area. He continued to climb toward the drop zone, and the flight encountered light rain.
The pilot advised the 14 parachutists that they were returning to land because of the weather.
The approach was a stabilized, power-on approach, which was much flatter than the previous approaches with an empty airplane.
The pilot used flaps incrementally to 30° (full flaps), initiated a flare over the threshold, and touched down at 65 knots. He used full-reverse propeller and retracted the flaps during the landing roll.
When he started to apply the brakes, he discovered that the braking action was null. The grass runway was wet because of a recent rain shower.
Because of the hot temperature, humidity, full load of parachutists, and trees at the end of the runway, he decided not to attempt a go-around. He held full aft on the control yoke for aerodynamic braking, stayed in full-reverse propeller, and braked as much as possible without locking the wheels up.
Just before coming to a complete stop (about 5 to 10 mph), the airplane rolled into a ditch before a road beyond the departure end of the runway, which resulted in substantial damage to the empennage.
According to the airplane manufacturer, the applicable Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH) tables did not provide distances for landing on wet grass runways. However, for landing on dry grass runways, 40% distance was added to the normal landing roll distance chart figures.
The pilot reported the airplane weighed 8,010 lbs, and the nearest weather reporting station to the accident site, located at an airport about 16 miles to the north, reported that the temperature was 30°C at the time of the accident.
According to the POH chart, the minimum required landing distance would have been about 2,265′. The published length of the runway was 1,950′.
The closest airport had an available runway that was 5,507′ long, which would have been well within the safe stopping distance for the fully loaded airplane.
The pilot’s decision to land the fully loaded airplane on the wet grass runway that had insufficient length for the landing led to the runway overrun. If he had chosen to land at the nearby airport that had sufficient length for the landing, the accident may have been avoided.
Probable cause: The pilot’s decision to land the fully loaded parachutist drop airplane on a wet grass runway that had insufficient length for the landing in high temperature conditions, which resulted in a runway overrun, when a more suitable longer runway was available at a nearby airport.
NTSB Identification: CEN16LA288
This July 2016 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.
Been there, done that. If I had been in a tail dragger, I could have done a controlled semi ground loop but instead, I tested the integrity of the wing to fuselage attach fittings on a 172 by sliding between 2 trees. After that, I never flew an airplane that didn’t have shoulder harnesses and never will. The grass I landed on was winter rye grass and it is composed of mostly water. I would have gone around, but by time I realized the braking was nil, it was too late.. When we attempted to tow the plane, the tires on the pickup truck would only spin and we had to get a tractor to do the job.
Wylbur Wrong says
Might I suggest that NTSB needs to read the regs. The pilot needed to declare an emergency so that he could land at the other airport so as to NOT violate the Part 135/119 regs. Doing parachute ops is exempted from the other regs, but landing at another airport with pax causes 135 to become applicable. The “E” word nullifies it.
For those of you wanting to get a CPL — that question, or one similar to it, will be part of the Orals and may even be on the new written.
Brian K says
I took my private pilot check ride at a 2200′ grass strip. I flew in from my home base (long and paved) to the grass strip and was rather surprised to get the “null” braking action that resulted from the morning dew on the grass. I’m sure glad I hadn’t landed long and didn’t need the brakes, or else that would have been one embarrassing start to a check ride.
Robert Hartmaier says
That “null” braking action will get you every time!