Recently, there was an accident with fatalities due to icing…NTSB investigated, ATC not a causal factor.
The situation: an a/c was cleared for an approach to “ABC” airport and on the approach advised he was picking up a little icing, but did not indicate that it would be a problem on the approach…Moments later the a/c reported missed approach, and said that he had picked up icing on the approach…ATC asked pilot to state his intentions…the a/c advised he would like to proceed to “BCD” airport. ATC specialist cleared the a/c to requested airport, and climbed a/c to 5,000. The a/c read back clearance limit, and then moments later advised he would not be able to climb due to icing, and asked to level at 4,500. ATC cleared a/c to maintain 4,500 and coordinated with the next controller (non-cardinal IFR altitude). ATC also searched for warmer conditions. The a/c then asked to land at yet another airport close by…new coordination made with receiving controller (approach control) and ATC was advised by approach control that they would just watch the a/c go into the new destination (as this airport was just a few miles inside their airspace.)
Initially the a/c was cleared to cross the NDB AOA the MIA, but the approach controller advised the center ATC that they usually just cleared the a/c to cruise…a/c was then cleared to cruise…A/C ultimately ended up crashing beyond the runway, with 2 fatalities, and 2 survivors.
My question is this: As pilots you are trained to handle/simulate emergencies as part of your training…As ATC, we are taught and have basic simulation problems and ongoing computer based instruction (CBI) about emergencies, icing, turbulence…you name it, but are constricted by a strict set of rules as to what we can and can’t say/do beyond a certain point…Let’s say everything was done correctly by the controller to the point of approach clearance…in an emergent situation, what other information, suggested headings, inbound course information, etc…would you want? Nothing was mentioned about the Minimum safe altitude in the area, and most of the obstructions on the approach plate were west of the airport (the direction from which the aircraft were approaching.) Knowing that an a/c with icing is limited in maneuverability, control surfaces affected and all…what do you think could help?
I was not involved with this, but had a similar situation with a single engine a/c (non-dme) losing his engine (local weather within 100 miles at 500 ovc) and somehow managed to get him to a local airport after losing him on radar at 3,000…using radials off the VOR serving the airport. Ultimately based on radial position reports, I determined he was very close to the VOR (within 2-3 miles), he was losing altitude quickly, then I got a report over the VOR, (he finally broke out, and got the airport in sight, and barely crossed the threshold.)
Though my situation ended happily, I am not a pilot, and I am always wondering what else might I do in these situations, as sometimes we are left feeling helpless as to what else we can do. I am trying to get some type of training scenario set up, so we can do what-ifs, beyond what we are allowed to do by the “book”. Thanks for reading…and look forward to your responses.
18 year controller…Memphis ARTCC