CEN09LA122
CEN09LA122

On January 6, 2009, at 1729 eastern standard time, a Beech A36TC, N92WT, experienced a hard forced landing on the frozen surface of a river about 1 mile south of the Three Rivers Municipal Airport (HAI), Three Rivers, Michigan. The commercial rated pilot and passenger on board were not injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The personal flight was being operated under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed. The last leg of the flight originated from the Branson National Airport (SGF), Springfield, Missouri, at 1402 central standard time.

The trip originated in Brownsville, Texas, with a planned stop at SGF where the pilot refueled the airplane and received a flight service station (FSS) weather briefing. The pilot stated he did not recall any reports of icing during the briefing.

The pilot stated he flew the en route portion of the flight from SGF to HAI at 9,000 feet above mean sea level (msl) and that the cloud tops were at 6,500 msl. He was in contact with South Bend approach control when nearing HAI. He stated the only pilot report regarding icing was from an airplane over Lake Michigan.

The pilot was cleared for the GPS 27 approach. The pilot stated that the airplane picked up light rime ice during the descent through the clouds, breaking out of the clouds around 1,700 msl (900 above ground level). He stated he had the pitot heat and defrosters on, but he was unable to see out of the forward windscreen so he had to look out the side window during the landing. The pilot reported that as he neared the airport he attempted to add engine power, but was able to maintain only 17 inches of manifold pressure. He stated he maintained as much airspeed as possible until the airplane contacted the frozen river. The pilot reported the airplane normally stalls at 62 knots; however, it stalled at 82 knots during the landing.

Post accident inspection of the airplane by inspectors from the Federal Aviation Administration South Bend, Indiana, Flight Standards District Office revealed the entire span of both wings contained 1/16 to 1/8 inch of rime ice on the lower surface of the wings from the leading edge trailing aft about 12 inches. Ice was also visible on portions of the leading edge of both wings; however, some of this ice was broken off due to the impact with the river. The windscreen was iced over. The horizontal stabilizer was covered with about 3/16 inch of rime ice and the vertical stabilizer was covered with 1/8 to 3/16 inch of mixed ice. The alternate air door was in the closed position and it appeared to be operable when inspected. The air inlet was crushed and impacted with snow during the landing. All three propeller blades were twisted and bent rearward. The nose and left main gears collapsed. The right main gear was pushed up into the wing. The rear spars on both wings were bent and the flaps were buckled.

The pilot received a Direct User Access Terminal Service (DUAT) weather briefing at 0614 central standard time, prior to departing Brownsville, Texas. The forecast for northern Indiana included an outlook for IFR conditions due to ceilings and freezing drizzle and snow mist. This briefing included the terminal forecasts for both the South Bend Regional Airport (SBN), South Bend Indiana, located 36 miles southwest of the HAI and for the Battle Creek International Airport (AZO), Kalamazoo, Michigan, located 17 miles north of HAI. The SBN forecast for 2100 called for light freezing drizzle and snow. The 1300 and 2000 forecasts for AZO called for light snow. This briefing also included Airmen's Meteorological Information (AIRMETs) along the route for icing between Brownsville and SGF.

The pilot contacted a FSS while at SGF to file a flight plan and obtain updated weather information. He stated to the briefer that there was a little rime ice coming into SGF. He asked what the ceiling and icing conditions were in the Kalamazoo area. The briefer told the pilot that if he had the AIRMETs for IFR, turbulence, and icing, he could give him an abbreviated briefing to which the pilot agreed. The briefer provided the current HAI conditions stating that it looked like a weak low pressure system was pushing into the area. Pilot reports were given for icing in the clouds near Jefferson, Missouri, and Springfield, Illinois, and light to moderate rime icing in the clouds at 6,000 feet near Goshen, Indiana. The pilot was informed that the heavier band of snow had moved through the Three Rivers area with isolated snow showers still in the area. The briefer also stated that the potential for icing still existed in the area.

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