On October 16, 1995, at 1130 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32-260, N39964, was substantially damaged during a forced landing to the Cherry Ridge Airport, Honesdale, Pennsylvania. The private pilot and passenger were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, for the personal flight that originated at Windsor Locks, Connecticut, at 1030. An IFR flight plan had been filed for the flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The pilot obtained a weather briefing, and filed an IFR flight plan to Columbus, Ohio, with the Burlington Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS). After takeoff from Windsor Locks, he climbed to his cruising altitude of 8,000 feet, which was above the clouds. Near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, he encountered 30 to 40 knot head winds, and requested a descent to 6,000 feet. The Air Traffic Control facility advised the pilot of turbulence at 6,000 feet, and issued the pilot an initial descent to 7,000 feet.

In the NTSB Form 6120.1/2, the pilot stated:

In the descent I encountered severe turbulence with severe icing...I had previously put on the pitot heat, but in spite of it...the main gear dropped because of icing...below the clouds at 5,500, I was unable to maintain altitude, problem of trim control, I was able to retract [the landing] gear. ATC gave me the direction to nearest airport...and I made a forced landing downwind and crosswind on [runway] 17. I was blown off to the left of the runway onto the grass where I made contact with runway lights.

A review of the audio tape of the pilot's AFSS weather briefing, revealed that the AFSS briefer issued the pilot AIRMET Zulu. The AIRMET was for light to moderate mixed/rime icing, in the clouds and precipitation, from the freezing level to 10,000 feet, and isolated severe icing in the clouds. The briefer stated that the area covered the pilot's route of flight from western Pennsylvania, to Columbus, Ohio. The briefer stated that the freezing level near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was between 2,000 and 4,000 feet. The briefer also gave the pilot the forecast for "strong westerly winds," which included specific winds at 9,000 feet, from 280 degrees at 38 knots, near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

The airplane, N39964, was not equipped with anti-icing, or deicing equipment, except for a heated pitot tube.

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