NTSB: Pilot, first officer errors led to crash of UPS Airlines F - WDRB 41 Louisville News

NTSB: Pilot, first officer errors led to crash of UPS Airlines Flight 1354

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The National Transportation Safety Board investigators have determined that errors by the pilot and first officer led to the crash of UPS Airlines Flight 1354 on Aug. 14, 2013.

That news came during a meeting where they discussed the failed flight that crashed on approach to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Birmingham, Alabama.

The aircraft crashed short of a runway, and both Captain Cerea Beal and First Officer Shanda Fannin were killed. The aircraft was destroyed.

NTSB officials stated that fatigue was a factor that led to improper decision-making by the crew. Officials stated that first officer had five hours sleep and the captain of the flight called out sick only days before the crash.

Dr. Katherine Wilson, NTSB Air Safety Investigator said that fatigue can lead to poor decision-making, poor judgement, complacency and reduced memory. Wilson said, "The first officer aboard the flight did not allow herself proper time to rest before embarking on the flight." Wilson commented about strategies that would prevent pilot fatigue increasing lighting inside cockpits and changing the temperatures.

NTSB Board Member Robert Sumwalt said that he was concerned about "the culture of UPS from a safety perspective." Sumwalt cited a survey from the UPS pilot's union in which a majority of flight crew members said they were more likely to call in sick than take themselves off-duty due to fatigue. The same report revealed 91 percent of responders found UPS' corporate culture does not encourage crew members to report fatigue. "I want you people to listen to what this is telling you and go back and fix the culture of the company!" he said, adding that, "Yes, the pilots flew the airplane into the ground, no question about that," but UPS has a responsibility to make changes.

UPS responded to the complaint. The company provides rest rooms at UPS Worldport in Louisville. Company Spokesman Jeff Wafford said the pilots can check out dark rooms with comfortable beds to help be more adequately rested prior to their flights. Wafford said, "Crew rest is a mutual responsibility the company does our part.  It's also on the pilots to make sure they take advantage of the rest opportunities we provide." Company representatives said they schedule pilots to fly about 30 hours a month-- the fewest in the industry and approximately half of what a passenger pilot flies.

The NTSB report also highlighted how UPS leaders failed to update the the aircraft's on-board software. Sumwalt said "If they had an iPhone, I guarantee they would keep their iPhone up-to-date."


Just before noon Tuesday, the NTSB unanimously approved its determination of the crash's probable cause, which cited the flight crew's "continuation of an unstabilized approach" which led to a descent into the terrain. The board identified contributing factors to the crash, including the crew's inability to configure the aircraft's computer for the approach, the captain's failure to properly communicate with the first officer, the first officer's incapability to complete performance callouts, fatigue, distraction and confusion.

But Cerea and Beal don't get all the blame.  The NTSB investigation found they came in blind, without seeing the airport. A UPS dispatcher followed the company's protocol and removed what turned out to be important weather information from the crew's pre-flight report. Investigators said Cerea and Beal thought the clouds would break at 1000 feet but there was actually a variable flight deck which was taken out of the report 


Shortly after the meeting adjourned, the Independent Pilots Association issued a written statements through its spokesman, Brian Gaudet.

"The IPA is calling for a dramatic change in the UPS safety culture," the statement read. "In our submission to the NTSB, we call on UPS to adopt a robust, collaborative "Safety Management System" or "SMS" that is recommended, but not currently required by the FAA. This should include company/union collaboration in critical safety areas such as flight schedules and fatigue risk management. UPS should partner with its pilot employees, not fight them. A punitive safety culture has no place in safety critical industries such as UPS's global flight operations."

UPS also issued a statement reacting to the NTSB meeting.

"UPS places the highest emphasis on safety and we'll continue to collaborate with our pilots to enhance our safety practices," the statement read. "This accident was a terrible aberration and the company again extends condolences to the families of the crew members. We thank the NTSB for its thorough and scientific investigation."

The statement went on to outline specific safety measures UPS had implemented since the accident, including training enhancements and making enhanced meteorological information available to crew members.

But UPS questioned some of the determinations made by the board.

"However, it is difficult to understand how the NTSB reached its conclusion regarding fatigue related to night flying when the pilot had not flown in 10 days and the first officer was off eight of the previous 10 days," UPS stated. "We believe these facts – and others – don't support such a finding."

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