FAA warned skydivers' plane unsafe in ice

SEATTLE (CBS/AP) -- The Federal Aviation Administration has warned in recent years that pilots should avoid flying the Cessna Caravan 208 in many icy situations after receiving reports that pilots had difficulty maintaining altitude and control of the aircraft during such conditions.

A cold front had just swept through the area near White Pass where a Cessna Caravan 208 plane went down on Sunday evening, killing nine skydivers and the pilot, but officials have not said whether such conditions might have contributed to the crash.

The temperature at White Pass was 33 degrees at 5,800 feet, it was overcast with light precipitation, and probably clouded over between about 4,500 feet and 5,800 feet, between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday, said Carl Cerniglia, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"It was not ideal flying weather, by any means," Cerniglia told The Associated Press.

Asked if such conditions could cause a plane to ice up, Cerniglia said, "Temperatures were cool enough and moisture was high enough where that could have been a possibility."

Julianne Hezlep didn't have a good feeling about the flight as her boyfriend, Andy Smith, boarded the plane.

"I told him not to get on that plane, I told him to stay here with me," she said at a memorial gathering Tuesday.

Mike Robertson, an aviation safety inspector for the FAA, representing the National Transportation Safety Board, assessed the crash site Tuesday.

There was no explosion or fire, Robertson said, but he refused to speculate on any cause and refused to discuss whether weather could have been a factor.

"It was a pretty extensive crash site," Nisha Marvel, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation's aviation division, said. "The aircraft was in pieces. It's rough, rugged terrain, and it took about 35 volunteers to comb that recovery area today to find the remaining passengers that had died in the crash."

All 10 bodies have now been recovered. Tuesday's focus was on removing the bodies; Wednesday's focus will be on the aircraft, he said.

A placard the FAA requires be displayed in Caravan 208 cockpitsLast year, the FAA issued a directive that operators post placards in Cessna Caravan 208 cockpits warning that "continued flight after encountering moderate or greater icing conditions is prohibited."

It updated the directive in June, noting that Wichita, Kan.-based Cessna had issued an icing equipment supplement to the aircraft's flight manual and developed a low airspeed awareness system for flying into icy conditions.

The Cessna model has been involved in 58 accidents in the United States since 2000, 13 of them fatal, NTSB records show.

Not counting this week's tragedy, 28 people have been killed in accidents involving the Caravan, including 10 aboard a plane that crashed shortly after taking off from Dillingham, Alaska, in October 2001. The FAA attributed the cause of that crash to "inadequate removal of ice accumulated while the airplane was on the ground."

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has determined that Caravans shouldn't fly in anything more than light icing conditions, the Winnipeg Sun newspaper reported last year.

That decision stemmed from an October 2005 crash that killed a pilot minutes after takeoff. An investigation found that ice buildup on critical surfaces of the plane kept it from maintaining altitude.

The plane that crashed Sunday had been returning from a skydiving meet in Idaho, headed to Shelton, Wash., northwest of Olympia.

A hunter in the crash area had alerted authorities Sunday night that a plane might have been in trouble. Tom Peterson of the state Department of Transportation said the hunter saw the aircraft's lights, and "thought the engine sounded like it was working really hard and whining loudly, and then silence after that."

Searchers found the wreckage Monday night after following the scent of fuel to the crash site.

The wreckage was found in rugged terrain just east of the crest of the Cascades on the edge of the Goat Rocks Wilderness at an elevation of 4,300 feet, within 200 yards of its last radar ping, authorities said.

Family, friends and officials said the victims were Casey Craig, of Bothell; Hollie Rasberry, 24, of Bellingham; Michelle Barker, 22, of Kirkland; Landon Atkin, 20, of Snohomish; Ross, 28, of Snohomish; Cecil Elsner, 20, of Lake Stevens; Andrew Smith, 20, of Lake Stevens; Bryan Jones, 34, of Redmond; Ralph Abdo, whose age and hometown were unavailable; and pilot Phil Kibler, 46, of the Seattle area.

Posted by LS

CBS and Associated Press contributed to this report.