The Air Safety Institute’s newest Real Pilot Story is now online—just in time for a winter flying refresher. The ice-coated Cessna 182 depicted is sobering. The pilot is wiser for his experience, and so are we.
The number of reportable icing accidents isn’t large—the latest Nall report shows a total of 12 in 2010. However, I suspect that the number of icing encounters is much higher—we just don’t hear about them. Remember that ice has the potential to nail much larger aircraft than just C182s, and assertiveness with ATC may be needed in working to get out of it. Most controllers are very understanding—but you have to advise them of your predicament.
If the weather is clearly unsuited for non-ice approved aircraft, have a backup plan. In more than a few cases, you have to wonder what the pilot was thinking. In others, there’s a plausible reason as ice forecasting is still as much art as science. That said, the NWS Aviation Weather Center has a great tool for showing pilots the probability of icing across the country at a chosen altitude.
From now until April, in many parts of the country, we just have to have a viable Plan B.
Here’s a synopsis of my first ice encounter: Piper Arrow headed south out of New Hampshire with Mom on board. We were IFR at 8,000 feet in solid IMC. The freezing level was at 6,000, and MEAs were around 3,000- 4000, but there were no reports of icing. My out was a descent, if needed.
About 10 minutes after leveling off, it became obvious that rime ice was starting to build. Called Center—no response. Called again—no response. Several more calls—no response. I started to transmit in the blind that I needed to descend when another pilot in the vicinity said that the primary center frequency was down and to try a different one—which he happened to have.
Switched freqs and ATC was most accommodating to let me descend to the warmer air. Note to self: try other surrounding ATC frequencies or 121.5 (they don’t charge you for using that, I’m told).
Mom just kept reading her book and never said a word.
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Now it’s your turn. Tell us briefly about your first ice encounter and, most importantly, the lesson learned?