'Tis the Season: Icing Warnings Abound ...

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Last Thursday’s fatal crash of a Cessna Caravan 208B as it tried to return to the Winnipeg (Canada) International Airport has highlighted not only the type’s problematic history with airframe icing but also the onset of the Northern Hemisphere’s winter season. In last week’s crash, Nancy Chase-Allan, 49, apparently was attempting to return to the airport after encountering conditions the single-engine turboprop could not handle. According to the Brandon, Manitoba, Sun newspaper, Chase-Allen radioed controllers at the airport, “I need an immediate back to the field … I’m icing up to the point where, uh, I need to come back.” The aircraft, operated by Morningstar Air Express as a FedEx feeder flight, crashed shortly thereafter as the pilot complied with vectors back to the airport. Cessna’s Caravan series has recently seen heightened government and industry scrutiny of both its icing certification and behavior when confronted with winter weather.

Earlier this year, the FAA issued Airworthiness Directive AD 2005-07-01, which targets Cessna Model 208 and 208B airplanes. The AD responds to recommendations A-04-64 through -67, issued by the National Transportation Safety Board on Dec. 15, 2004. One feature of the AD calls for a tactile preflight inspection of the upper wing surfaces to ensure no frozen contaminants remain on the wing prior to takeoff. Many operators, however, have expressed concerns about the tactile-inspection requirement, noting the precarious situation of a pilot standing on a ladder erected on a wind-swept and perhaps icy ramp to inspect a high-wing airplane. Regardless of its location and whether Canadian operators have a similar requirement, last week’s crash is not likely to help U.S.-based Caravan operators cope with the AD. Although it's much to soon to know, AVweb is hearing informed speculation about even more icing-related regulatory changes involving the Caravan and other aircraft types.