Thursday, December 16, 2010

Here's a recent accident report from a medevac flight up north - everyone was okay, but the airplane is a write-off. Too bad, it was the first MU-2 I ever flew and I liked the old girl.


CADORS REPORT

From the report:

---------------------------

Narrative: The Mitsubishi MU 2B60 aircraft was concluding an IFR flight from Geraldton (Greenstone Regional) Airport (CYGQ) to Armstrong Airport (CYYW). The aircraft landed on runway 30 and encountered an unexpected amount of snow on the runway. The aircraft was unable remain on the runway and came to rest 50 feet south of runway 12/30. There was damage to the landing gear and propeller. There were no reported injuries and all agencies were notified.


UPDATE: a Mitsubishi MU-2 registration C-GAMC was a medevac flight en route from Geraldton to Armstrong Ontario. Earlier in the day the crew checked a NOTAM for Armstrong which indicated that the runway was 100% snow covered, but that snow removal was in progress. Believing that the runway would be clear upon their arrival, the crew conducted a night VFR approach with precision approach path indicator (PAPI) guidance to runway 30. When the aircraft touched down the left main wheel dug into the snow covered surface of runway 30 and veered off to the left eventually departing the runway surface. The aircraft sustained substantial damage to its fuselage, right wing and right propeller. The runway had not been plowed. After the accident, Nav Canada personnel were unable to contact airport operations personnel, and issued a NOTAM to close the airport.

--------------------------------------------------


Man, that sucks. The Armstrong airport is a small airport, north of Thunder Bay, Ontario. It's 4,000 feet long, and covered in ice during the winter. Here's a Google Maps link:


View Larger Map

With smaller airports like this, there aren't a lot of services, and frequently there is nobody around when the airplane lands.

Let's take a closer look at some of the text in the accident report:

"Earlier in the day the crew checked a NOTAM for Armstrong which indicated that the runway was 100% snow covered, but that snow removal was in progress. Believing that the runway would be clear upon their arrival, the crew conducted a night VFR approach with precision approach path indicator (PAPI) guidance to runway 30."

Turns out, snow removal wasn't in progress after all - in fact, the airport personnel had departed the airport and couldn't even be reached after the plane crashed - Nav Canada had to issue a NOTAM closing the airport after the accident.

Anyway, when the crew touched down they landed in a pile of snow and lost control of the plane. That's a hard situation, and I'm left wondering to myself what they could have done differently. I guess they could have done a low approach over the runway to try to ascertain whether or not some of the snow had been removed, but I wonder how much information you can really get while flying over a small airport runway at a few hundred feet at night - even if the runway is plowed, it's gonna be covered in ice, which looks just like snow from above.

I'm sure they called the appropriate unicom frequency before they tried to land, but they wouldn't have expected a reply anyway - it was dark, and at night, and at lots of northern strips there either isn't anyone there, or the airport operator person is sitting in the snowplow out on the runway, and the plow may or may not even have a radio.

It reminds me of a near-accident we had in the MU-2 during a summer flight in 2004 - we were going into a northern gravel strip called Ogoki Post, and we knew from a notam that the runway was being graded and smoothed. No sweat, we flew over the field and saw that the road graders had graded a strip right down the middle of the runway for us. They didn't have radios, but they saw us do a low pass, and they pulled off to the side of the runway for our landing. We had a nice smooth approach, and upon touching down discovered that the road graders had spread a foot of loose gravel over the entire runway, and had plowed the middle section down to maybe about 6 inches of loose gravel. Note: 6 inches of loose gravel absolutely sucks as a landing surface. We nearly lost control of the plane - the nose gear was whipping back and forth in the gravel so hard that the rudder was smacking the stops on both sides like a drumbeat of impending metal-fatigue doom. We got lucky though - the Captain shoved the power levers forward and we had enough remaining speed that we were able to get airborne before we hit any of the trees on the side of the runway. We didn't bother trying again, we just flew home and had maintenance do an inspection of our landing gear and rudder (it was all okay, the MU-2 is built like a tank). It's kinda the same thing as what these poor pilots in the MU-2 encountered in Armstrong a few days ago.

I feel really spoiled now that I fly a jet which isn't allowed to land on gravel strips, and 99.9% of our flights are to large airports that have runway condition reports and snowplows that work 24/7 when it snows.

So here's my question: what would you have done if you were in the position the MU-2 crew was in a few days ago?

8 comments:

Chris said...

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, and living in a country that only sees snow on its highest peaks, perhaps ring the aerodrome operator before departing, enquiring as to when snow clearing operations were likely to be complete?

Of course if you didn't get an answer on the phone and considering the nature of their mission, probably blast off anyway.

fche said...

Only unappealing alternatives come to mind:

(1) finding a helicopter instead
(2) flying to thunder bay (CYQG), driving the rest of the way
(3) a lit-up low & over, with a diversion on hair-trigger
(4) not going

david said...

"So here's my question: what would you have done if you were in the position the MU-2 crew was in a few days ago?"

I would have done exactly what they did -- it was a reasonable assumption that the runway would be clear.

Calling first is a good idea, but in a small airport like that, the only person to answer the phone is probably out fueling planes or plowing a lot of the time.

Andy said...

I'd loose a lot of sleep if even a small percentage of my job entailed dropping a Medivac turboprop with the manners of an MU-2 into uncontrolled airports in Canada in winter on a regular basis.

My pilot old man always said, "When in doubt, don't."

WILLO2D said...

I'm with Chris... mostly. Contact the destination and get upto date info. If no answer, maybe go with what you have, but have someone at the departure end keep trying on the phone. But... also contact the medevac requester to determine if an alternate evac solution is available. It's all 20/20. The crew made the call and it didn't work out.

Luckily no one else was injured.

Crissy said...

No comments on the landing and what I would or wouldn't have done differently. But AMC, whoa girl. It was nice flying in you (with some great pilots I might add).

Glad no one was hurt.

Sid said...

I would have done the same thing as the flight crew which is sobering. No one starts their day wanting a total hull loss but for pure happenstance it could be anyone of us next time.

Aviatrix said...

My answer to this developed too many asides in it for a blog comment so I moved it to my own blog. Thanks for asking the question.