NTSB: Crew Mistakes, Fatigue Caused UPS Crash

Cargo airline disagrees with Safety Board findings.

The August 2013 crash of a UPS cargo plane short of the runway in Birmingham, Alabama, was caused by a combination of crew errors and pilot fatigue, the National Transportation Safety Board said in its final accident report released on Tuesday.

UPS disagrees with the findings, saying the carrier provides adequate rest for crews and that fatigue should not have been included as a factor. The cargo airline and its pilots union were both kicked off the accident investigation team last month after publicly sparring about the cause of the crash before the official report was made public.

Ultimately, however, the NTSB determined that crew mistakes were the primary reasons for the accident, which killed both pilots when their Airbus A300-600 slammed into the ground less than a mile from the runway during a pre-dawn approach to Birmingham. Specifically investigators faulted the pilots for failing to make proper altitude and descent rate callouts and for not aborting the landing attempt during the unstabilized approach.

As they prepared for the flight the pilots can be heard on the cockpit voice recorder complaining of being tired and saying that cargo pilots should have been included in new federal rest and duty-time regulations.

A UPS spokesman, however, rejected the notion that fatigue played a role in the crash.

“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,” the company spokesman told The Birmingham Courier-Journal.

Based on the investigation, the Safety Board issued 20 recommendations, including calls for the FAA to require crews to brief each other on fatigue before each flight and for UPS and its pilots union to work together to develop a better rest-management program.

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