Friday, May 23, 2014

UPS and union disagree on fatigue in Birmingham crash

Whether the pilots who died in a UPS crash last August in Alabama were too tired or overloaded by automated cockpit information is at the heart of differing accounts filed this week with the National Transportation Safety Board.

UPS and the Independent Pilots Association concur that the crew did not respond in time as Flight 1354 descended too quickly and too steeply before it crashed at 4:47 a.m. Aug. 14.

The Airbus A300-600 crashed a mile short of the runway, killing Capt. Cerea Beal, 57, of Matthews, N.C. and First Officer Shanda Carney Fanning, 37, of Lynchburg, Tenn.

Both crew members complained of fatigue in a conversation before the flight took off from UPS' main air hub in Louisville at 4:02 a.m., according to a transcript of cockpit audio filed with the NTSB.

How much fatigue was a factor and how much the Federal Aviation Administration should oversee crew rest on cargo flights, is at the heart of the dispute between UPS and its pilots' union. Airbus, the manufacturer of the A300-600F plane, concluded in it's 400-plus page report that alarms sounded that the plane was too low, and that human error was responsible for the crash.

HIGHLIGHTS: UPS, IPA reports on Birmingham crash

In its report to the NTSB, UPS argues Beal was rested, but Fanning was not, adding she "did not take full advantage of her sleep opportunities." The pilots became overloaded by inaccurate and ill-timed weather and navigational information in the final seconds of the flight, UPS asserted.

The Independent Pilots Association, which represents 2,600 UPS pilots, claims UPS culture discourages pilots from withdrawing from service because they are tired. This year, the IPA filed suit against the FAA to press the agency to include cargo pilots in stricter guidelines that are applied to passenger flight crews.

Unlike passenger aircraft pilots, cargo pilots fly under older rules that permit longer time on duty, with no special limits on overnight flights, when many cargo shipments take place. Applying the stricter passenger pilot rules to cargo flights would cost the industry $550 million to comply, the FAA has concluded.

UPS pilots, should be covered by the same rules, the IPA argues. Both UPS and FedEx oppose enhanced federal regulation of rest time by crews operating cargo planes, adding current company policies and regulations provide for adequate rest.

Ultimately, the NTSB will draw final conclusions about what caused the crash.

"UPS builds our flight schedules to minimize fatigue," UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot said in a statement Friday, adding there are limits to what the carrier can discuss while the NTSB inquiry continues. "UPS has a non-punitive call in policy if a pilot feels too fatigued to fly. UPS pilots made 138 fatigue calls last year... about one per every 1,000 flights." 


NTSB Identification: DCA13MA133 
 Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 121: Air Carrier operation of UNITED PARCEL SERVICE CO
Accident occurred Wednesday, August 14, 2013 in Birmingham, AL
Aircraft: AIRBUS A300 F4-622R, registration: N155UP
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On August, 14, 2013, at about 0447 central daylight time (CDT), United Parcel Service flight 1354, an Airbus A300-600, N155UP, crashed short of runway 18 while on approach to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (KBHM), Birmingham, Alabama. The two flight crew members were fatally injured and the airplane was destroyed. The cargo flight was operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulation Part 121 supplemental and originated from Louisville International Airport, Louisville, Kentucky.

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