Preliminary Report: Icy reception for Caravan

 - January 28, 2008, 8:35 AM

CESSNA 208, KOTZEBUE, ALASKA, MARCH 2, 2003–Cessna N205BA sustained substantial damage at about 3:04 p.m. local time when it collided with ice-covered terrain during a VFR approach. The accident occurred a quarter mile from the approach end of Runway 08 at the Ralph Wien Memorial Airport (OTZ).

The turboprop single, operated by Bering Air of Nome, Alaska, was being repositioned from Shungnak Airport (SHG), Alaska to Kotzebue. The sole-occupant ATP-rated pilot received only minor injuries. IMC prevailed at the time of the accident, though the aircraft was on a VFR flight plan.

The director of operations for Bering Air reported the airplane was returning to Kotzebue without passengers at the conclusion of an on-demand air-taxi flight. During a telephone conversation with the NTSB investigator-in-charge, the pilot reported that when he departed from Shungnak about one hour before the accident, the visibility at Kotzebue was greater than six miles.

By the time N205BA neared Kotzebue, the visibility had deteriorated and several airplanes in the area were requesting special VFR clearances into the Class E airspace. The pilot requested a special VFR clearance but was told to hold outside the airspace for other VFR and IFR traffic.

According to the pilot, once he was cleared to enter the airspace he established a GPS waypoint four miles from the runway and descended to 1,000 feet. He continued inbound and descended to 300 feet. At one mile from the airport, the pilot said he looked up from the instrument panel but could not see the airport. He also stated that he was in whiteout conditions. The airplane collided with the snow-covered sea ice short of the runway threshold.

About 10 minutes before the accident, Kotzebue weather was reported as wind 80 degrees at 26 knots, gusting to 33 knots; visibility one mile, Runway 08 visibility variable from 5,500 feet to greater than 6,000 feet in light snow and blowing snow; clouds 1,300 feet scattered, 2,000 feet broken, 2,800 feet overcast; temperature 30 degrees F and dew point 29 degrees F; and altimeter 29.51.

At 3:01 p.m., a special aviation weather observation stated, in part; wind 080 degrees at 26 knots; visibility three-quarters of a mile, Runway 08 visibility variable from 3,500 to greater than 6,000 feet in light snow and blowing snow; clouds 1,100 feet broken, 2,000 feet overcast; temperature 30 degrees F; dew point 29 degrees F and altimeter 29.50.