NTSB holds hearing into 2013 UPS cargo plane crash
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A complicated landing performed by fatigued pilots may have caused the deadly crash of a UPS cargo plane from Louisville.
Six months after the tragic ending of UPS flight 1354 a Nation Transportation Safety Board hearing Thursday shed new light on the flight crew and condition surrounding the crash.
During the hearing an NTSB board member revealed information from texts of the co-pilot, Shanda Fanning. In them, Fanning wrote about falling asleep on several flights on the day before the crash that took her life.
The NTSB also released a transcript of the cockpit conversation on flight 1354. Captain Cerea Beal also complained of tiring work schedules expressing to Fanning that cargo pilots are not given as much time to rest between shifts as federal regulations require for pilots on passenger airlines.
UPS fatigue working group representative, Jon Snyder said the company allows flight crews to call out fatigued. Snyder said, "Our crews get annual recurrent training, fatigue is a part of that. In addition we require and provide annual training not only for our air crew but our dispatchers and schedulers and senior managers so everyone is on the same page."
Independent Pilot Association representative, Lauri Esposito said often times when a UPS pilot calls in fatigued they're forced to use time from their sick bank. Esposito said, "Crew members view it as punitive. They get dinged for it....we just counsel them to make sure they're fit for duty. "
When a NTSB panel member pressed her about the counseling Esposito admitted that it's more of a recommendation saying, "You're a professional just do the best you can to be rested for your duty period."
Beal and Fanning started their shift around 9pm the previous night in Rockford Illinois, then flew to Peoria, Louisville and Birmingham for the final leg. Their cargo plane went down just before dawn on August 14.
"The main body of the aircraft struck an up slope area that ruptured the fuel tanks and ignited the fire," NTSB Investigator Dan Bower explained.
The pilots communicated with each other and Air Traffic Control in the final two minutes before the crash. The main runway at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport was closed for maintenance at the time of the crash. The pilots were trying to land on a shorter runway -- that didn't have as complete an instrument landing system as the longer runway.
In addition to pilot fatigue, investigators are eyeing the rare non precision approach in the fatal crash, probing why the crew ignored the "sink rate" alarm moments before the Airbus A-300 went down. UPS leaders said the alarm should have alerted the crew to discontinue the approach and execute a missed approach.
NTSB officials said operator fatigue is often a problem in accidents in planes, trains, cars, trucks and ships. Fatigue can erode judgment, slow response times and lead to errors as much as alcohol can.
Investigators said they found no problems with the plane or its alarms and warning systems leading up to the crash.
The eight-hour hearing would see 13 people testify. It examined the training, dispatch procedures and how well the pilots adhered to flight procedures, monitored instruments and followed company policies.
NTSB officials said a probable cause report for the crash is still several months away but when it comes, the findings could set new rules for the industry.
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