Icing Encounter and Loss of Control

By Richard N. Aarons
Source: Business & Commercial Aviation

The Pilot and the Airplane

The 45-year-old pilot held a private certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. He reported a total flight experience of 1,400 hr. on a second-class medical certificate application dated July 14, 2011. The pilot's personal logbook(s) were not located after the accident. A postmortem examination of the pilot was performed at the County of Morris Medical Examiner's Office. The ME stated the cause of death was “multiple injuries” and the manner of death was “accident.” The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory did forensic toxicology testing on specimens from the pilot. The lab tests indicated negative for ethanol and drugs. Testing for carbon monoxide and cyanide was not performed.

The pilot had completed a TBM 700 two-day recurrent training course at the SIMCOM Training Center in Orlando on Nov. 15, 2011. A SIMCOM representative told investigators that the pilot had accomplished ground training on the technical aspects of the installed ice protection and environmental systems including preflight checking and testing. Normal and emergency checklist procedures were also discussed. Simulator training consisted of system checking, testing and operation, including operating in icing conditions at altitude and system malfunctions.

The SIMCOM representative stated that, “It is always stressed that the installed ice protection systems are intended to provide protection while departing icing conditions.”

The airplane was manufactured in 2005 and was equipped with a single Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-64 turboprop engine. The most recent annual inspection was performed on July 27, 2011. At that time, the airplane had accumulated approximately 702.0 total flight hours. The last logbook entry was recorded on Nov. 18, 2011, at an aircraft total time of 724.6 hr.


“Although the pilot filed an IFR flight plan through the Direct User Access Terminal System (DUATS),” said the NTSB, “no evidence of a weather briefing was found.” The Safety Board determined the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The airplane's encounter with unforecasted severe icing conditions that were characterized by high ice accretion rates and the pilot's failure to use his command authority to depart the icing conditions in an expeditious manner, which resulted in a loss of airplane control.

We have become a generation of self-briefers. Near-real-time weather is available online and from ATC and pilots aloft. However, we have to look for it electronically or ask for it. Investigators are beginning to see more accidents involving incomplete self-briefing.

Ice can always be a killer. Any mention of ice should start pilots thinking about ice avoidance. As the SIMCOM instructor said, “. . . the installed ice protection systems are intended to provide protection while departing icing conditions.”

When your aircraft is accumulating ice, you need to be somewhere else quickly. That could mean declaring an emergency to get immediate relief. It's always better to deal with the ATC paperwork after you land safely than burden NTSB personnel with the paperwork that goes with an accident investigation.

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