Just Prior To Reaching The Minimum Descent Altitude, He Saw The Approach Lights

Location: St. Marys, PA Accident Number: ERA21LA134
Date & Time: February 22, 2021, 11:45 Local Registration: N84HA
Aircraft: Cessna 421 Injuries: 1 Minor, 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Executive/Corporate

On February 22, 2021, at 1145 eastern standard time, a Cessna 421C, N84HA, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident at St. Marys Municipal Airport (OYM), St. Marys, Pennsylvania. The airline transport pilot sustained minor injuries and the two passengers were not injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 corporate flight.

According to the pilot, while inbound to OYM, he believed the automated weather observation station reported the cloud conditions at 600 ft broken 1,000 ft overcast, and visibility 1.5 miles in snow. Prior to being cleared for the GPS approach to runway 28, air traffic control provided notices to airman (NOTAMS) regarding an inoperative remote communications outlet, and several lighted obstructions (towers) in the vicinity of the airport. He recalled these were the same NOTAMS that he had received prior to departure.

As he began the approach, he was able to “pick up ground contact” and just prior to reaching the minimum descent altitude, he saw the approach lights. As he flew over the approach lights, he could see the “outline of the runway.” On touchdown, the airplane struck a snow berm on the left side of the runway.

Examination of the accident site by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed “ground” scars in the snow to the left of the runway edge, beginning about 1,000 ft from the approach end of runway 28. The marks were about 250 ft long. One mark consistent with the fuselage began about 6 ft to the left of the left runway edge, in an estimated 3-4 ft tall snowbank that remained from plowing of the runway. A parallel mark consistent with landing gear was found to the left of the fuselage mark. Both marks tracked back to the right, toward the left edge of the runway as they progressed along the path. Photographs of the airplane prior to it being moved showed it at the end of the snow marks, oriented about 130° magnetic (rotated about 210° from the runway 28 heading). At the time of the accident, the runway was covered in snow estimated to be about 3-5 inches deep. The runway edge lights, and runway end identifier lights were beneath the snow.

Examination of the airplane revealed substantial damage including bending/displacement of the forward pressure bulkhead, buckling of the floor just forward of the pressure bulkhead, and a slight displacement of the left wing from the fuselage at the wing root. The pilot reported that there were no preexisting mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation of the airplane.

A review of FAA records revealed that there were no NOTAMS regarding the snow on the runway, the obscuration of the runway lights, or any other field conditions issued prior to the accident.

The 1135 weather conditions reported at OYM included clouds broken at 700 ft, overcast at 1,100 ft, visibility ½
mile in light snow. The visibility was reported as ½ mile (in snow or light snow), during the previous observations
recorded at 1115, 1055, and 1035.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov