DEN06LA050
DEN06LA050

On March 20, 2006, approximately 0640 central standard time, a Piper PA-23-250 twin-engine airplane, N331FC, sustained substantial damage when it impact trees and terrain during a forced landing near Emporia, Kansas. The commercial pilot, who was the sole occupant, was seriously injured. The airplane was operated by Safewing Aviation Company, Inc., Kansas City, Missouri, and registered to Delta Sales Company, Davenport, Iowa. Dark night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The unscheduled domestic cargo flight was being operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 under an instrument flight rules flight plan. The flight departed Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport (MKC), Kansas City, Missouri, at 0605, and was en route to Wichita, Kansas.

Prior to departure, the pilot obtained a weather briefing from Columbia Flight Service Station (FSS). At the start of the briefing conversation, the briefer asked the pilot if he was going to take the "anti-icing" equipped airplane for the proposed flight. The pilot responded, "Hopefully." The briefer informed the pilot "there's all kinds of stuff going on out there today, looks like you're going to need [anti-icing equipped airplane]. The briefer told the pilot to expect ice, instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions, and turbulence along the intended route of flight. The briefer informed the pilot the weather consisted of rime ice, mix clouds, and precipitation, which included mist, snow, sleet, and rain. The briefer stated the current freezing level at MKC was 1,500 feet agl, to which the pilot stated, "Alright." The current weather at Wichita was reported as wind 070 degrees at 13 knots, gusting to 18 knots, visibility 3 statute miles, ceiling broken at 700 feet agl, overcast at 1,300 feet agl, temperature 2 degrees Celsius, dew point 1 degree Celsius, rain/snow mix, and mist. The briefer inquired whether the pilot had an alternate airport; the pilot responded, "no." The pilot stated he intended to fly at an altitude of 4,000 feet agl.

According to communications from Kansas City Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), shortly after take-off, the airplane climbed to 4,000 feet and the controller identified the airplane on radar. During the climb, the airplane encountered icing conditions. The pilot informed ARTCC the airplane was accumulating "very little ice", and he requested an altitude of 6,000 feet. ARTCC cleared the pilot to 6,000 feet, and shortly thereafter, the pilot requested an altitude of 3,000, because the airplane would not climb. The controller cleared the airplane to 3,200 feet, which was the minimum en route altitude for the area. The pilot then requested to divert to Emporia Municipal Airport (EMP). The pilot requested the weather for EMP and stated he could hardly keep altitude because the airplane "had a lot of ice." The controller informed the pilot the 0553 weather at EMP was wind 090 at 15 knots, gusting to 22 knots, visibility 2 1/2 miles, light rain, mist, ceiling broken at 800 feet, overcast at 1,300 feet, temperature 1 degree Celsius, dew point 0 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 29.83 inches of Mercury.

The controller reported to the pilot that radar contact was lost below 3,200 feet, at which the pilot responded, "can't find the approach plates for EMP, hardly hold altitude at 3,200 feet, losing altitude." The controller then asked, "Are you picking up ice?" The pilot responded, "Lot of ice." The pilot inquired whether he could descend and the controller cleared the pilot to descend at his discretion. The controller asked the pilot if he could navigate an approach at EMP, and the pilot responded, "No sir, I'm going down." No further communications were received by ARTCC from the pilot.

According to the pilot's statement, he obtained a standard routine weather briefing from Columbia FSS. The pilot completed a weight and balance prior to departure, which indicated the airplane was "well under gross weight and within [center of gravity] limits." Shortly after departure, the airplane reached an altitude of 4,000 feet. Approaching EMP, the pilot noticed ice building up on the wings. The pilot activated the deice boots and "broke the ice on the wings edges." After cycling the deice boots, the pilot requested an altitude of 6,000 feet. "After attempting to climb several times, I realized the aircraft could not climb and started to buffet and the speed was beginning to decrease." The pilot contacted air traffic control and requested a descent to 3,000 feet. While descending to 3,000 feet, the pilot "realized I could not hold altitude. I was unable to level, the airplane continued to descend and buffet. I announced to Kansas City Center that I was going down... Everything happened so fast and the ice was building up and the boots could not break it."

During an attempted forced landing, the airplane impacted a tree, and came to rest upright in a field approximately 4 miles southeast of EMP.

According to a county sheriff's report, officers who responded to the accident site noticed ice on the leading edges of the airplane, and ice on the ground around the impact area.

According to the EMP airport manager, who responded to the accident site, he noticed ice on the wing tips, nose, antennas, and top of the vertical stabilizer. He did not see "any noticeable ice on the deice boots on the wings or tail." He noticed ice in the grass area adjacent to the tree the airplane impacted during the forced landing.

During an interview with the pilot conducted by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the pilot stated the deice boots were working and the leading edge of the wings appeared to be clean although the area of the wing root, between the engine nacelle and the fuselage had approximately 1 inch of ice. Ice accumulation was also noted on the wing behind the deice boots. The pilot stated it was somewhat difficult to see the extent of the ice accumulation due to the flight occurred prior to sunrise.

Examination of the airplane by a FAA inspector revealed no anomalies with the airframe, systems and engines.




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