On January 18, 1996, about 2250 central standard time, a Piper PA-32R-300, N4457X, registered to Grand Strand Aviation Inc., operating as Pelican Flight 410, crashed during an emergency landing at the Smithville Municipal Airport, Smithville, Tennessee. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and an IFR flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 135 non-scheduled, domestic, cargo flight to Nashville, Tennessee. The commercial-rated pilot, the sole occupant, received minor injuries and the airplane was substantially damaged. The flight originated about 2246 eastern standard time from the McGhee Tyson Airport, Knoxville, Tennessee.

About 1813 eastern standard time, the pilot contacted the Nashville Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) by telephone and requested a standard weather briefing for two proposed flights, the last being the accident flight. The pilot was advised of the location of a cold front that existed between Jackson and Nashville, Tennessee, which was west of the destination airport. Jackson was reporting at that time light ice pellets and a temperature of 29 degrees Fahrenheit. About that time, the temperature at the destination airport was 50 degrees, but the pilot was advised that the temperature was 58 degrees. The specialist advised the pilot that if the flight were to stay below 8,000 feet icing conditions were not forecast; however, icing conditions were encountered as low as 2,000 and 4,000 feet in the Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis is located about 170 nautical miles west-southwest of the destination airport. The pilot was advised that the temperature at 6,000 feet at the destination airport was minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

The pilot again contacted the Nashville AFSS by telephone about 2027, and requested an updated weather briefing pertaining to the thunderstorms for the first proposed flight that evening. The specialist did not mention temperature at either the departure or destination airports. The pilot stated that the first flight was uneventful and after landing, cargo was loaded into the airplane.

The flight departed and while climbing to the assigned altitude of 6,000 feet, the flight encountered IMC conditions and the pilot activated the pitot heat. The flight continued and the pilot descended to and leveled off at 4,000 feet. The pilot stated that during cruise flight he observed light rime ice on the wing and asked the controller if higher or lower would be better. The controller advised higher and the flight was cleared to climb. The flight continued and the pilot reported that the airplane continued to accrue ice. The pilot advised the controller that he was unable to maintain altitude and the pitot system was iced over and he needed a vector to the closest airport. The controller vectored the flight toward the Smithville airport and the pilot then declared an emergency. The pilot asked about the ceilings and whether the airport had an instrument approach. The controller replied that there was a published NDB approach and gave the pilot in part the frequency for the NDB, which at that time was non-operational. The pilot then advised the controller that he was not receiving the NDB and the controller advised the pilot that the airport was 12 o'clock and 1/2 mile. The flight had descended below the base of the clouds and the pilot asked the controller the frequency to activate the runway lights to which the controller responded "I'm showing no frequency right now for the airport sir." Through a relay from another airplane the pilot requested a vector to the airport and again asked the frequency to activate the runway lights. The controller provided the vector and 2 minutes 11 seconds after being asked the first time, the controller provided the frequency to activate the runway lights. The pilot stated he then located the airport and after turning onto final with the landing gear extended, he felt airframe buffeting at power reduction and observed that the windscreen was iced over. With limited forward visibility he applied rudder input then felt an impact.

The airplane collided with upsloping terrain about 239 feet short of the runway, bounced, collided with a VASI light then veered off the left side of the runway down a 20-foot embankment to the left of the runway. The right wing separated and the nose and right main landing gears collapsed. The pitot heat system checked satisfactory after the accident.

The pilot was hired and started his training with the company on January 9, 1996, and completed his training on January 13, 1996. He was PIC qualified in this make and model airplane. The flight training consisted of a total of 8.7 hours of which 4.3 hours were in this make and model.

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