NTSB: Data recovered from black boxes, new details about flight - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

NTSB: Data recovered from black boxes, new details about flight

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Both black boxes extracted from the UPS cargo plane crashes had data intact, according to the NTSB.

NTSB Member Robert Sumwalt noted that the entire flight was captured on both the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder. Here's what they found:

  • Capt. Cerea Beal., Jr., was the flying pilot.
  • The crew briefed the approach for localizer Runway 18 approach
  • Two minutes before the end of the recording, the aircraft was cleared to land on Runway 18.
  • 16 seconds before the end of the recording was the first of two audible "sink rate" warnings generated by the ground proximity warning system.
  • 13 seconds prior to the end of the recording, one crew member reported that the runway was in sight.
  • 9 seconds prior to the end of the recording are sounds consistent with an impact.

Over the weekend, six people from various organizations in the cockpit voice recorder group will type out what they're hearing, the words beings spoken and who said them, to generate the official transcript of the cockpit voice recorder.

The NTSB was able to interview the air traffic controller that worked the flight. Here's what they learned:

  • Two air traffic controllers were working at the time of the crash. One was on break, which is allowed.
  • One reported witnessing the crash.
  • The air traffic controller working the flight is an experienced air traffic controller.
  • He reported seeing a bright spark flash, which he equated to what it would look like if a power like had broke.
  • He reported that he had observed the landing lights of the aircraft, but then no longer saw the landing lights. This was followed by a bright orange flash, according to the controller, and a red glow, which prompted him to activate the crash phone.
  • There was no alert of the controllers' minimum safe altitude warning. This system is programmed into radar facilities like the air traffic control system in Birmingham, and detects if an airplane might be approaching the ground at a rate that could be hazardous. "We know that it did not alert. What we want to understand is should it have? And if it should have, why did it not alert," Sumwalt said. 

They also gathered additional data about the pilots:

  • Capt. Cerea Beal, Jr., was hired by UPS in October of 1990.
  • He held the required transport pilot certificate and a first-class FAA medical certification.
  • Beal had 8,600 hours of total flying time, including 6,400 hours with UPS and 3,200 hours in the Airbus A-300.
  • First Officer Shanda Fanning was hired by UPS in November 2006.
  • Fanning also held an airline transport pilot certificate and first-class medical certification.
  • Fanning had logged 6,500 hours total flying time, including 1,250 with UPS and about 400 hours in the Airbus A-300.
  • Both of the flight crew members were type-rated for the Airbus A-300, which means they were both rated specifically for that type of aircraft.
  • The pilots were scheduled to depart Rockford, Ill. at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday evening. They flew from Rockford to Peoria, Ill., then to Louisville, Ky., then were scheduled to continue on to Birmingham.

Sumwalt said at this point in the investigation, the NTSB is right where they need to be.

"We were all relieved to know we had good data from both of the recorders," he said. "I personally breathed a huge sigh of relief when I heard that we had good data."

On the scene, wreckage diagramming is almost complete, and the NTSB will interview the second air traffic controller this weekend.

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