Certified for Known "Icy"?

As most of you know, another Canadian Cessna Caravan has crashed, this time with passenger fatalities (including a small child). Here’s what the CBC article has to say about the Caravan’s safety record:

American authorities want the model of airplane to be grounded in colder weather.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board sent out three urgent safety recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration last week about the plane’s handling in icy conditions.

One recommended the plane be grounded if conditions are determined to be “more than light icing.”

The ground where the latest crash happened was covered in snow but there is nothing linking the crash and the winter weather at this time, said Foster.

The CBC usually doesn’t do this badly. Let’s take it apart point by point:

  • False: American authorities want to ground the Caravan in cold weather.
  • False: the NTSB sent warnings about the plane’s handling in “icy” conditions.
  • True: the NTSB recommended that the Caravan not be flown in worse than light icing.
  • Irrelevant: the ground at the crash site was covered with snow.

The author got confused by the difference between “icing conditions” — a situation where airborne supercooled water droplets can adhere to an airframe — and “icy conditions”, such as when there happens to be snow and ice on the ground. “Foster”, the RCMP Corporal quoted at the end, does not (fortunately) make the same mistake.

As far as I know, there is no push to keep the Caravan from flying in cold weather. In fact, the NTSB would probably be much happier seeing it fly when the ground temperature is -20 degC under a clear sky than when it’s, say, 5 degC under a lot of low cumulus cloud. Anyone who flies IFR will know exactly what I mean.

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