UPS A300 Crashes Short of Birmingham Runway

No distress call prior to impact with ground.

A UPS Airbus A300-600F crashed into a grassy rise about a half mile short of the runway at Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) early Wednesday morning, killing both pilots and leaving a fiery debris path stretching nearly 1,000 feet.

There was no distress call from the crew of the cargo plane prior to the crash, according to National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt. The A300 was on approach to Runway 18 in the predawn darkness when it undershot the airport, impacting trees first and then a slight rise of an open grass field more or less on an extended centerline to the runway.A number of witnesses on the ground reported seeing the A300 on fire before the crash, reports that will likely prompt investigators to look into the possibility that a fire in the cargo hold was to blame in the crash. .

The crew of UPS Flight 1354 was executing a non-precision approach to Runway 18 with a four-light PAPI installation available for vertical guidance. Birmingham’s longer, 12,000-foot Runway 6/24 that UPS jets normally use was closed for overnight construction. Runway 18/36 is 7,100 feet long.

The Airbus crew had flown 45 minutes from UPS’s main hub in Louisville, Kentucky, to the Alabama airport. Weather at the time of the crash was reported as wind 340 degrees at 4 knots, 10 miles visibility, few clouds at 1,100 feet, broken clouds at 3,500 feet and an overcast layer at 7,500 feet.

NTSB investigators were working to recover the 10-year-old A300’s cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, which should yield further clues about what happened in the flight’s final moments. Sumwalt said the NTSB will also be looking at the flight manifest to determine if the A300 carried any hazardous cargo that might have played a role in the crash. A UPS Boeing 747 crash in the United Arab Emirates in 2010 killed both pilots after a fire traced to lithium batteries broke out in the cargo hold.

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