Saturday, 10th of October 2020, Blog #563
After a nearly 2 week delay, the crew of a Douglas C-54E was planning to operate a supply flight from Kenai to the Yakatage Airstrip in Alaska. The delay was caused by rain, making the strip unusable for aircraft bigger aircraft.
The aircraft in its final position (Source; www.thecordovatimes.com © Unknown) As the weather was good, and preparations were completed, the engines were started and after take-off, the crew set a course for Yakataga Airport. After an uneventful flight, the aircraft approached Runway 8 in VMC conditions;
Clouds - None
Visibility - 8 miles
Temperature - 3ºC
Dewpoint - 3ºC
Altimeter - 29.27 inHg
A stabilised approach was flown and the aircraft touched down on the 4350 feet (1325 metres) long runway. The crew immediately became aware that the braking action was 'zero' (there was no braking effect from the wheel brakes). As this did not improve over the length of the runway the crew were not able to bring the aircraft to a stop in the Landing Distance Available and overran the runway at a speed of approximately 5 knots. As the aircraft left the runway the nose landing gear collapsed, causing substantial damage to the forward fuselage. There were no reported system malfunctions during the flight to Yakataga Airport.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was alerted and an investigation was launched. As part of the investigation, the crew was interviewed. The pilot reported that, during a formal flight brief from a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Flight Service Station (FSS), he and the copilot asked if there was “anything special going on down there” that they should be aware of” but that FSS personnel did not mention any NOTAMs stating that the runway was closed to heavy airplanes nor was it mentioned when they activated the flight plan. However, according to FAA FSS recordings, during the first conversation, the pilot did not ask for any NOTAMs for the airport. During the second conversation, the FSS asked the pilots if they needed any weather information or NOTAMs, and the pilots responded, “no,” and that they “were all good.”
Overview picture of Yakataga Airport, please note the runway has been renumbered and the picture is dated 1998. (Source; airports-worldwide.com)
A NOTAM had been issued, which stated, in part, that the landing runway was closed to aircraft that weighed more than 5,000 lbs. The airport chart supplement remarks stated, in part, that “the runway was extremely soft when wet. Use of heavy aircraft over 4,000 lbs gross is not recommended during fall, winter, & spring due to” soft field conditions and rutting.” The reported landing weight was ~62.568 lbs. The NTSB concluded that the probable cause of this accident was;
"The pilot's decision to land on a wet, soft runway, which resulted in the loss of braking action upon landing and a subsequent runway overrun and nose landing gear collapse."
The NTSB investigation report, on which this blog is based, can be accessed by clicking on the .pdf file below;