New Icing AD Issued For Caravans

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Operators of Cessna Caravans and Grand Caravans who want to fly them in known icing conditions will have to equip them with a "low airspeed awareness alert system" by Sept. 20, according to an Airworthiness Directive (AD) the FAA published last week. The system, developed by Cessna, costs about $8,200 per airplane to install and is designed to help Caravan pilots better manage airspeed in icing conditions. It was developed and then jointly tested by the FAA and Cessna to address the very rapid degradation of the airplane's flying qualities in icing conditions, which appears to surprise Caravan pilots. "The accident/incident history of the Model 208 indicates that pilots have not been diligent in the management of the aircraft when operating in icing conditions, as aircraft performance can decay very quickly," the AD reads.

The new directive, which takes effect June 21, supersedes an earlier one that required only placards and changes to aircraft manuals. Some commenters questioned the need and the reliability of the alarm, saying more training is the answer. The FAA says it agrees that training is a good thing, but the alarm works as intended and the agency considers it essential equipment for flight into known icing. A spate of high-profile accidents involving iced-up Caravans over the past few years resulted in increased scrutiny of the popular commuter and cargo aircraft and that, in itself, seems to have helped halt the carnage. This icing season, the NTSB has recorded only one accident in the U.S. involving a Caravan -- on Feb. 8 near Alliance, Neb. The cargo-carrying Caravan hit a power-line pole on final approach at night, seriously injuring the pilot. Investigators found between 1/10th and 3/8ths of an inch of ice on the airframe. Weather was misty with a temperature of -6 degrees C and a dewpoint of -7 degrees C.