YAKIMA – Federal investigators say a plane that crashed in Washington’s Cascades, killing nine skydivers and the pilot, likely didn’t experience significant ice buildup.
Icing had been considered as a possible factor in the October 2007 crash, but simulations by the National Transportation Safety Board suggest the plane would have stalled out earlier if significant ice had been present.
The safety board released a report on the crash earlier this week. That report will be used to reach a final determination on the cause of the crash.
The Cessna Caravan 208 crashed into thick timber at 4,300 feet, about 45 miles west of Yakima near the Goat Rocks Wilderness Area.
The pilot and nine skydivers, based in Snohomish, Wash., were returning from a weekend skydiving event in Idaho en route to Shelton.
The pilot was described as experienced, and witnesses told the NTSB that he checked the weather several times before deciding he could make the trip.
Icing conditions and cloud cover were present at the flight’s altitudes, according to pilots and forecast tools cited in the NTSB report.
While not assigning a cause to the crash, the report points out that the pilot spent nearly an hour and 15 minutes between 12,500 and 15,000 feet. Flying at those altitudes for more than 30 minutes would have required the use of oxygen for the pilot, according to Federal Aviation Administration regulations cited in the report.
Oxygen deficiency above 8,000 feet starts to limit a person’s ability to perform complex tasks, medical testing suggests. The effect becomes markedly more intense above 12,000 feet.
An empty oxygen bottle and a mask in its case were found in the wreckage, according to the NTSB report.
The families of the skydivers have sued Cessna in federal court, alleging the company knew that the plane was dangerous in icing conditions.
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