Dense, freezing fog can play havoc with aircraft without anti-freezing or de-icing mechanisms, says aviation expert Mike Hogan, with A-Cent Aviation.
Hogan, a veteran pilot, has experience flying in conditions like those present on Wednesday. Being in a fixed wing aircraft with ice build up is not fun, Hogan says.
That's because, as ice builds up on the wings and tail of the plane, it becomes heavier and less aerodynamic. These two things combined make it difficult for the plane to maintain its altitude, eventually leading to a catastrophic event.
Such an event may have occurred Wednesday when Anthony Riggan's Mooney M20E, a single engine fixed wing aircraft, crashed at the Colorado Springs Airport.
Hogan says that if the conditions came together in the wrong way, there may be very little Riggan could have done to prevent this tragedy. He may have even been surprised by the weather conditions, despite his fighter pilot background.
Dense freezing fog creates a potentially dangerous situation that can quickly deteriorate an aircraft's ability to stay aloft. Sometimes, pilots have little to no choice but to fly through it. "It's a risk that we deal with as we go. And when you arrive in those conditions you have to make a decision," says Hogan.
It's a decision, Hogan says, that can't be fully understood by those on the ground. "You can't second guess what happened in the aircraft or with the people involved," says Hogan.
If ice did build up on the wings and tail of Riggan's plane, it could have contributed to the crash, Hogan says. However, he says, we may never truly know what happened because the small plane doesn't carry a black-box like commercial airliners do.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating this crash. It could take up to a year before they release their results.