With the exact cause of the accident still unknown, officials have been sifting the wreckage of the A300-600F, and searching for clues as to what the crew was doing and what they knew immediately prior to the accident.
According to the NTSB, day four of the investigation has revealed new details. “The recorded air speed was tracking the auto-flight-selected air speed of about 140 knots, which is consistent with the expected approach speed,” reveals NTSB member Robert Sumwalt on the Board’s website.
The Airbus freighter’s autopilot was engaged in the final seconds leading up to the crash, which experts insist is not unusual.
“We are looking at UPS’s procedures,” says Sumwalt. “As a pilot myself for 24 years, I can tell you that it’s not unusual to fly an instrument approach using the automation.”
NTSB crews have been examining the black-box flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, along with memory chips from other equipment.
This latest crash has raised safety concerns over airfreight pilots and their fatigue levels, although there is no evidence to support that this was the case in the UPS accident.
The UPS pilots were killed when the Airbus slammed into a hill short of Runway 18 at the airport after clipping adjacent trees and electricity power lines.
Part of the investigation means that NTSB officials have interviewed those UPS employees and contractors who had interacted with the crew on the day of the accident.
The captain and first officer began their duty day for UPS Flight 1354 at Rockford, Illinois, at 9:30 pm, the night before the crash. They flew to Peoria, Illinois, and then on to UPS’s hub Louisville, Kentucky hub, for a layover before the five am departure of the one-hour flight to Birmingham.
“They obtained keys for the sleep rooms in Louisville, and we want to determine if they used those rooms,” says Sumwalt, adding that UPS provides sleeping facilities for the company’s pilots at its hub.