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UPS Pilots Got 2 Warnings
Automated system told them descent too low seconds before crash
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Aug 17, 2013 5:51 AM CDT
The National Transportation Safety Board and FBI scour the accident scene, north of the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.   (AP Photo/al.com, Frank Couch)

(Newser) – The pilots killed in this week's crash of a UPS plane in Birmingham got two automated warnings that they were coming in too low, says the NTSB. But they didn't have much time to process them—the first came 7 seconds before impact, reports the Wall Street Journal. Three seconds after the first "sink rate" alarm sounded in the cockpit, one of the two pilots said the runway was in sight, but the plane soon clipped power wires and slammed into a hill. A veteran pilot was at the controls: Cerea Beal had 8,600 flying hours with UPS—3,000 alone in A300 cargo planes, the type that went down—and before that served as a Maine helicopter pilot. But it's unclear whether he had ever landed at this particular runway before at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

Authorities say it's tricky because it's not equipped with the electronics for a full instrument landing and thus requires a visual approach. The crash occurred in the pre-dawn dark, while it was raining. "When I heard they were using Runway 18, it caught my attention because of that hill," a commercial pilot tells AP. "It's sad, but it didn't surprise me." A longer runway at the airport with a more modern landing system had been closed for maintenance. The co-pilot was previously identified as 37-year-old Shanda Fanning.

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Showing 3 of 42 comments
Who_Cares
Aug 18, 2013 4:25 AM CDT
You have to be a genius to close very important runway at night especially when it rains. How about San Francisco accident, some important equipment was for repair as well.
derbypie1911
Aug 17, 2013 3:30 PM CDT
I appreciate this news writer's reporting. Such a tragety for ALL concerned. I for one person's opinion feel that speed kills everything. We don't need to merge airlines to make them more speedier. People don't need to pack so much weight in their suitcases, as most do. People don't need to look at on another about how fat or how skinny, tall or short, and complaining. We "Don't" need shorter runways. we need helicopter pilots to be helicoper piolets. Muti-tasking has had so many flaws, even today getting a prescription filled for a neighbor I could not get the person to keep their attention on me, her eyes was everywhere else. I had to pay with cash. Never told the person about it getting the medicine. Anyway how awlful for their family and true friends, of all concerned that day. Things do break down and you have to have them on the ground long enough for good service, instead of doing a nascar on them - Hitting the metal and good to go. How horrible of work, time and time again. God doen't have anything to do with it, we as humans do! Shame on the higher up's and people who don't work or stay in the present. All years are January to December, and should operate that way, and not let fun activities and sports rule the world. Money's needed elsewhere, wise up. Stay.
Ultraworld
Aug 17, 2013 2:44 PM CDT
I'm surprised that a commercial jet was not equipped for a full instrument landing. Maybe UPS needs to rethink that.