The pilots of the UPS Airbus A300-600F that crashed on approach to Runway 18 at Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport (KBHM) in Alabama on August 14 received a cockpit warning that they were descending too fast. The “sink rate, sink rate” warning, which was captured on the cockpit voice recorder recovered on August 15, was given 16 seconds before impact. Three seconds later one of the pilots was heard telling the other that the runway was in sight, according to NTSB member Robert Sumwalt.
In an August 17 press briefing, he indicated that investigators have not found evidence of any problems with the aircraft’s cockpit controls and that they are focusing on the pilots’ landing procedures and training.
Local weather at the time of the crash (4:45 a.m.) was reported as “visibility of 10 miles with scattered clouds at 1,300 feet.” While not conclusive, those reported conditions create doubt that weather was a significant factor in the accident. However, there is no precision approach procedure for 7,100-foot Runway 18 at BHM. The airport’s longer Runway 6/24 was closed at the time of the accident.
The NTSB Go-Team at BHM spent much of Thursday documenting the position of cockpit switches and tail control-surface positions. “The preliminary data showed the aircraft [hit] trees [approximately 200 yards short of the runway]…near the bottom of a hill…prior to hitting the ground,” said Sumwalt. He added that the wings and tail of the Airbus came to rest another 75 to 80 yards past the main fuselage and that both engines appeared to be operating normally before impact. Both pilots aboard the aircraft were killed in the accident.