General Aviation News has recently published an excerpt from a March 2009 National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident report about an incident involving a Piper Navajo and a snow covered runway in Buckland, Alaska that is well worth repeating even though spring is almost here. According to the accident report:
The commercial pilot was attempting to land on the snow-covered runway. He applied the brakes but the airplane did not slow. It was about 500 feet from the departure end of the runway when the pilot realized that stopping was going to be a problem, but he elected not to abort the landing. The airplane slid off the end of the runway into a snowbank.
Luckily there were no injuries but the aircraft did suffer from substantial damage.
Upon closer examination of the runway, the pilot noticed that it was covered with light snow over ice. However, the pilot also pointed out that he had landed there the previous day and that the runway condition was acceptable. Moreover, he stated that he had not received any reports or instructions about braking action for the airport on the day of the incident. Nevertheless, the FAA Information Supplement for the airport notes that it is unattended and recommends a visual inspection prior to landing.
In other words and if you are flying in winter, be sure to check the runway conditions at the airport you intend to take off and land from – especially if it is unattended.