UPS Pilots Got Descent Warning, Says NTSB

 - August 19, 2013, 2:45 PM
A UPS Airbus A300-600F crashed on approach to Runway 18 at Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport (KBHM) in Alabama on August 14.

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.



Wasn't this the same problem with the Asianna flight that crashed in SFO ?

Automation has saved so many lives that we need to keep it, but now that pilots simply don't have the practice to avoid disasters, shouldn't we just close an airport if the Precision Approach is not available. "Out for Maintenance" is just not good enough

That is absurd. It is analogous to closing a shopping mall (with stairs) because the escalator is broken.

Modern aircraft have numerous ways to safely utilize an airport when the airport based approach systems are inop. You can even create a pseudo precision approach with GPS or simply use non precision approach minimums.

Thousands of non precision approaches are successfully flown every day across the United States with positive results. Occasionally they go wrong [I am not saying that is what happened here] but if it did, its statistically insignificant compared to the number of successfully completed approaches.

Unmanned Aircraft won't forget to engage the autothrottle or exceed the decent profile to get back on glide slope so the ego won't be bruised when they have to perform a go around.

There are jobs that will be eliminated due to automation. TV news helicopters will be followed or even proceded by letting a Drone fly boxes and letters.

Don't plan on your jobs to be around for long.

And let’s not forget that runway 18 at BHM also did have a 4-light PAPI visual approach system. Unless that wasn’t working for some reason, all tyhose red lights should have jumped out at both pilots like fireworks on final … unless something else was going on in the cockpit at the time.

Your insistence on using the "drones" term indicates a certain POV. While I agree that shippers are an initial target for the sort of automation you appear to endorse, and likely we will have full automation some day; UAVs are designed, programmed, and constructed by human beings and thus are subject to failure. If anything, a HOB (Human on Board) gives an opportunity to capture an automated system excursion before it becomes a tragic event. Let's not forget that the Predator UAVs that have shown such success have highly trained remote operators with huge sensing and comms capacity in addition to all the automation. I see that type of system as the more likely scenario.