NTSB Hearing underway in Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WIAT) — The hearing on the crash of UPS Flight 1354 that killed two crew members on August 14, 2013 began with National Transportation and Safety Board Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman and other parties involved offering their deepest sympathies to an already emotional group of family members sitting in the audience.

“I want to assure the families of the crew that the NTSB will pursue every lead toward what caused or contributed to this accident. We will also fulfill our broader mandate to formulate recommendations, to prevent tragedies not only in the U.S., but worldwide,” said Hersman.

At a prehearing conference conducted last week, the NTSB determined what would be discussed and what witnesses would be brought forward for today’s hearing.

Three broad issues are being discussed:

  1. Non-precision approaches
  2. Human Factors
  3.  Flight Dispatch.

Documents released just minutes before the hearing began reveal that Runway 6/24 at the Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport was closed for repairs between 4:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

UPS Flight 1354 was cleared for landing about five and a half miles from Runway 18, a shorter runway.

The plane crashed at 4:40 a.m.

In opening statements representatives said there were no “anomalies” were found, which means, there were no mechanical issues discovered or problems with controls that would have led to the crash. The Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS), a warning system that goes off if an aircraft comes too close to the ground, was operational.

A two hour and four minute recording from the cockpit captured “sink rate” and “too low terrain” warnings as the crew continued toward the runway during the non-precision approach.

After autopilot was disengaged, there was a sound of rustling captured and a “too low terrain” warning went off. “Oh, did I hit something?” the pilot said. That first impact was likely trees that were hit just before the plane went down on a hill.

During the hearing, Captain Drew Middleton, with the Independent Pilots Association testified that non-precision approaches aren’t something they see often. Of the hundreds of flights he conduct last year, he only did two.

Captain Michael Kritz with Airbus testified that proper response to a “sink rate” alert depends on conditions. With an alert at night the recommended procedure would be a go-around maneuver, the same goes for a “too low terrain” alter.

The CVR also captured the pilot and first officer discussing sleep, flight times and the difference between allowances for those flying cargo planes and those flying passenger planes before take-off.

Person 2: I was out and I slept today. I slept in Rockford. I slept good.”

Person 1:  me too.”

Person 2:  and I was out in that sleep room and when my alarm went off I mean I’m thinkin’ I’m so tired…”

Mike Mangeot, Public Relations Manager with UPS Airlines says there are a number of procedures in place to provide proper crew rest.

“Our pilots work typically about 70 hours a month. Only about 30 of those hours are actually spent flying. Beyond that there are FAA regulations that we comply with and we stay well inside of. We offer  25 to 50 percent longer rest periods than the FAA requires.”

According to testimony and evidence there were several cues that the crew should break off the approach.

 

 

The hearing is set to wrap up at 4:30 p.m. stay with CBS 42 for the latest.

 


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