Friday, December 12, 2014

Air Tindi Caravan forced to land on frozen lake after flying into icing conditions



Recently I was contacted by CJCD Moose FM in Yellowknife Canada and was informed that "they had an incident in the area involving a Caravan making a forced landing on a frozen lake in bad weather."  The radio station also wanted me to comment on the "Caravan's capabilities, and describe how difficult it would be to pull off a task like landing on a frozen lake." 

Obviously the Caravan is more than capable of landing on non-standard runways and even in off runway situations. However, that is not what needs to be asked here. The much more important question is, why did this airplane take off with a freezing drizzle warning in effect for the Yellowknife area? I will refrain from belittling the pilot and simply use this incident as a learning lesson for my fellow Caravan pilots. Especially since we do not know all of the facts pertaining to this recent situation.

Here is what we do know according to Transport Canada. On Thursday November 20th at 6:44 AM an Air Tindi C208B Grand Caravan (C-FKAY) departed Yellowknife airport NT for Fort Simpson airport NT with a pilot and 5 passengers on board. Approximately 22 minutes later the pilot requested clearance to return to Yellowknife airport due to icing. Approximately 13 minutes later and 1 minute before landing on a frozen lake, the pilot made a distress call due to severe icing. The Caravan suffered substantial damage to its left main landing gear and its left wing. There were no serious injuries reported.

A spokesman for Yellowknife RCMP, Cpl. Todd Scaplen stated that "3 helicopters waited hours Thursday for the weather to improve enough for them to take off to help the Cessna's passengers." Was that fact #3 that it was too icy for the Caravan to depart?

According to Jock Williams, a safety officer with Transport Canada, "pilots aren't suppose to take off in icy conditions and they have an obligation to check the weather." He went on to say that "We simply stay on the ground when we're faced with those circumstances, because no aircraft is certified to handle it [heavy icing] or capable of handling it."

In 2006 the NTSB released recommendations that the Caravan should not be flown in anything greater than light icing. Flying into freezing drizzle (which is what the reported conditions were at the time) can definitely cause greater than light icing to form on your airplane, as experienced by the Air Tindi pilot in Yellowknife Canada.

If you are a Caravan pilot, I highly recommend that you complete some of Cessna's E-Learning courses on this topic. Courses such as "Caravan Cold Weather Ops" and "Caravan Vodcast Ground Icing Conditions". There are many other interesting courses available, most of which are free and are all available at cessnaelearning.com.

I am not aware if this pilot was pressured to depart into a dangerous situation but I know for a fact that it happens, and it happens more often than you would like to know. If you are ever pressured to fly when you know that it is not safe, it's time for you to start looking for another employer... immediately!


- CaravanPilot.com