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On January 17, 2004, eight Canadian passengers and one passenger from the United States boarded a Cessna 208B Caravan aircraft operated by a Canadian carrier. The flight was scheduled to depart from Pelee Island, located on the Canadian side of Lake Erie, for a twenty minute flight to Windsor, Ontario. Shortly after takeoff, the aircraft departed from controlled flight and plunged into the frozen waters of Lake Erie. All passengers and the pilot were killed. NPHM represented the family of Jamie Levine, the only passenger who was a United States citizen and who resided in southern California.
The Cessna 208B Caravan passenger airplane has a long history of fatal crashes associated with design flaws in the aircraft’s wings. The Cessna Caravan wing is susceptible to aerodynamic stalling (that is, loss of lift capability) whenever there are trace amounts of ice on the wing surface. Although the Caravan is equipped with in-flight de-icing equipment, the lack of de-icing protection in the area aft of the wing’s leading edge allows for the accumulation of ice in unprotected areas which the pilot cannot detect or remove once the plane is aloft. Due to this design flaw, it is critical that a thorough pre-flight inspection be conducted of the entire wing surface area and that all snow, ice or frost be removed with de-icing fluid prior to take off. In this case, however, the investigation revealed that the pre-flight ice inspection was not properly carried out and the operator of the Caravan did not furnish any de-icing fluids.
Ms. Levine, who was 28 years old at the time of the crash, was survived by her parents and brother. In the wake of this tragedy, a number of safety issues were identified and are expected to be addressed to prevent the recurrence of similar calamities. Among those safety actions taken are: the operator of the aircraft has installed de-icing equipment on Pelee Island; all flights will be operated with a second crew member to assist the pilot on flight duties; the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) requiring all airlines and operators of Cessna 208B Caravan aircraft to ensure that, prior to takeoff, pilots and flight crew use de-icing fluid to remove all traces of snow, ice, and frost from the aircraft wings and that they conduct visual and tactical examinations to determine whether any snow, ice, or frost contamination remains on the wings. Further, in the event of in-flight icing conditions pilots are cautioned to timely utilize de-icing equipment and to exit the icing environment as soon as practicable.