Forced landing short of the runway followed engine failure due to ice ingestion during flight in icing conditions

Key points:

  • Flight was planned and conducted through forecast icing conditions;
  • Ice accumulated on the aircraft, leading to engine failure;
  • Unable to restart the engine, the pilot conducted a glide toward Moruya Airport for an attempted landing, but collided with terrain nearby;

The forced landing of a turbine-powered Cessna 210 about 560 metres short of the runway threshold following an engine failure from flight in icing conditions highlights the importance of proper pre-flight planning, according to an ATSB investigation.

The US-registered Cessna P210N Silver Eagle, a pressurised Cessna P210N re-engined with a Rolls-Royce M250 turbine, had departed Sydney’s Bankstown Airport for a private flight under instrument flight rules to Hobart’s Cambridge Airport on 19 December 2019. The pilot and a single passenger were onboard.

The flight was planned and conducted through forecast icing conditions although the aircraft was not certified or equipped for flight in known icing. It entered icing conditions about half an hour into the flight, shortly after reaching the cruise altitude of about 18,000 ft.

“Flight through icing conditions for an extended period resulted in significant accumulation of ice on the airframe,” ATSB Director Transport Safety Stuart Macleod said.

The pilot continued to operate in icing conditions for an extended period of time before exiting those conditions and descending to 16,000 ft. Subsequently, the pilot deactivated the propeller de-ice and engine ice-protection systems, which in turn led to a flameout from ice ingestion.

“Attempts to restart the engine were unsuccessful, most probably because of a phenomenon known as rotor lock – where rapid and differential cooling of the engine’s components temporarily prevents it from rotating,” Mr Macleod explained.

Without engine power, the pilot conducted a glide approach towards Moruya Airport on the New South Wales South Coast.

“While the pilot was able to get near the airport, the subsequent manoeuvring compromised the ability to remain visual with the airport and assess the glide approach, resulting in the aircraft being too low to reach the most appropriate runway,” Mr Macleod said.

“Subsequent distraction led to a misjudged approach to the remaining runway options.”

The aircraft impacted terrain about 560 m north of the runway threshold, and was destroyed. The pilot was seriously injured, and the passenger sustained minor injuries.

“This investigation highlights that thorough knowledge of an aircraft’s limitations and systems, in combination with an understanding of hazardous weather and aviation meteorological products, is critical to safe and effective flight operations,” said Mr Macleod.

“Icing conditions can be extremely hazardous to aircraft. Every icing encounter, to some extent, is unique and unpredictable.”

Mr Macleod stressed that pilots should carefully evaluate all available relevant meteorological information when determining whether icing conditions are likely along the planned flight path.

“Where the aircraft is not certified or equipped to operate in icing conditions, any ice-protection systems on the airframe, propeller, or engine should be regarded as a means to provide time to exit unexpected icing conditions, not to continue to operate in those conditions.”

In addition, the ATSB investigation emphasises that practice and proficiency in simulated forced landings and power-off approaches can improve the likelihood of successfully managing emergency situations.

“Although forced landings can occur in a variety of circumstances, in general, pilots should focus on remaining visual with the intended landing area in order to accurately assess the aircraft’s performance in glide, and reach key decision points to refine the course of action,” Mr Macleod said.

The investigation also identified a number of other factors associated with pre‑flight preparation and the operation of the aircraft and its systems.

Finally, the ATSB also found that the seatbelts and shoulder harnesses worn by the pilot and passenger probably reduced the extent of their injuries, and the prompt attendance of nearby paramedics further reduced their risk.

Read the report: Engine failure and collision with terrain involving Cessna P210N, N210BA Near Moruya Airport, New South Wales, on 19 December 2019

Last update 02 November 2021

Final report

Engine failure and collision with terrain involving Cessna P210N, N210BA Near Moruya Airport, New South Wales, on 19 December 2019