On March 21, 2004, about 1515 Alaska standard time, a Piper PA-31T3 airplane, N223CS, sustained substantial damage when it encountered deep snow while landing at the Barter Island Long Range Radar Station (LRRS), Kaktovik, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as an instrument flight rules (IFR) on-demand passenger flight under Title 14, CFR Part 135, when the accident occurred. The airplane was operated by Cape Smythe Air Service Inc., Barrow, Alaska. The airline transport certificated pilot, and the three passengers, were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The flight departed Deadhorse, Alaska, about 1447, and an IFR flight plan was in effect. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), on March 21, the director of maintenance for the operator reported that he received a call from the pilot after landing at the Barter Island LRRS. The pilot reported that during the landing roll on runway 06, while the airplane's propellers were in reverse thrust, the airplane encountered about 2 feet of snow. The airplane pulled to the right and stopped on the runway. The pilot reported damage to the right engine propeller, the fuselage belly cargo pod, the right main landing gear door, and the elevator trim tab.
On March 29, the director of maintenance reported to the NTSB IIC that an inspection of the airplane revealed additional damage to both elevators, the elevator trim tab, and the right engine. The director of maintenance provided the NTSB IIC with a written statement from the pilot, in which the pilot reported listening to the recorded weather conditions at Barter Island when he was about 40 miles from the airport. The weather report included a sky condition of a partially obscured ceiling of 1,200 feet overcast, and a visibility of 1.5 miles.
In his statement, the pilot reported that he was cleared for the Global Positioning System (GPS) runway 06 approach. Two miles from the runway, about 600 feet msl, the pilot said he saw the runway and decided to circle to land on runway 24. While turning base for runway 24, the pilot lost sight of the runway and discontinued the landing approach. He then visually reacquired the runway and again reentered the landing pattern for runway 24. The pilot indicated he once again lost visual sight of the runway and executed the missed approach procedure. The pilot was then cleared for the runway 06 GPS approach. During the landing approach to runway 06, the pilot reported that at 1.5 miles from the runway, about 500 feet msl, he observed runway 06 and continued the landing approach. About 20 feet agl, the pilot said he experienced flat light conditions that limited his view so that he could only distinguish the runway lights as his landing reference. The airplane touched down about 1,700 feet beyond the approach end of runway 06, and the pilot selected reverse thrust. The airplane pulled to the right, and came to a stop about 3,000 feet beyond the approach end.
According to the FAA, the visibility minimum for the GPS approaches to runway 06 and runway 24, including the circle to land minimum, is 1 statute mile.
At 1515, a special weather observation at Barter Island was reporting, in part: Wind, 300 degrees (true) at 6 knots; visibility, 2.5 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, 1,200 feet overcast; temperature, 27 degrees F; dew point, 25 degrees F; altimeter, 30.37 inHg. Prior to the accident, the visibility at 1455 was 1 statute mile, and at 1435, the visibility was 1.25 statute mile.
The FAA Facility Directory/Alaska Supplement for the Barter Island LRRS indicates that runway 06 is 4,820 feet long and 100 feet wide. The remarks section states, in part: "Airport remarks - Attended 0600 to 2400. Runway not monitored. Recommend visual inspection prior to landing."
According to the FAA, no Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) or pilot reports (PIREP) were issued by the FAA prior to the accident. A local NOTAM applicable to the airport, indicated that the threshold lights were out of service. Following the accident, a NOTAM was issued indicating "2 foot berm inside runway lights."
Airport maintenance of the Barter Island LRRS is the responsibility of the Alaska North Slope Borough. In a telephone conversation with the NTSB IIC on May 6, 2004, the airport manager reported that the accident airplane arrived during near zero visibility conditions. He stated that two of the passengers in the accident airplane are airport linemen. The airport has a grader, loader, and snow blower for runway maintenance. The runway had been cleared on Saturday, March 20, but had not been cleared on Sunday, the day of the accident, because the visibility had been near zero. The manager said that the runway had accumulated drifting snow, and the pilot landed along the right edge of the runway. He indicated that the airport has an automated weather observation system (AWOS), and pilots of arriving aircraft will usually check the AWOS. If the AWOS is out of service, or if it is providing invalid data, pilots will usually telephone the local police station for weather information.
FAA Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 91.103 Preflight Action, states, in part: "Each pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning the flight." FAR 135.229 Airport Requirements, states, in part: "(a) No certificate holder may use any airport unless it is adequate for the proposed operation, considering such items as size, surface, obstructions, and lighting."