WASHINGTON, D.C. (WAVE) - The National Transportation Safety Board has started a hearing into the crash of UPS Flight 1354 on the morning of August 14, 2013. The hearing focuses on three areas: non-precision approaches, human factors and flight dispatch.
A transcript of the cockpit voice recorder released as the hearing started shows the pilots discussed rest and fatigue just before takeoff.
Captain Cerea Beal talked about the amount of rest the crew had the night before in Rockford, Illinois. Beal said that he would like to see cargo carriers have the same rest rules as passenger commercial airlines, which the FAA mandates have longer time between shifts.
"I mean I … don't get that," said Beal. "You know it should be one level of safety for everybody."
Co-pilot Shanda Fanning agreed, citing the time of the overnight shifts that many UPS pilots fly.
"I was out and I slept today. I slept in Rockford. I slept good," Fanning said. "And I was out in that sleep room and when my alarm went off I mean I'm thinkin' I'm so tired..."
The NTSB Human Performance Group summary said:
"Interviews with colleagues of the PF (Pilot Flying) indicated that he (Beal) was concerned about the schedules he was flying. About 7 weeks before the accident he told a colleague that the schedules were becoming more demanding because they were flying up to three legs per night. The PF told him ‘I can't do this until I retire because it's killing me.' He had a similar conversation with another colleague the night before the accident. In that conversation, they discussed the flight schedules and the PF said the schedules were "killing him" and he could not keep it up flying day/night flops and on one week, off the next. He told another pilot he flew with that the first couple of days of a trip were tough getting back into the schedule and the end of the trip as well."
The same report has this statement about comments made by Fanning.
"She (Fanning) had told (a friend) within the month prior to the accident that she had recently been having trouble staying awake in the cockpit. The friend stated it was something that had become an epidemic that they almost laughed about and it was hard to know which of her comments were serious and which were a joke. They also recently discussed how the schedules had deteriorated and crews were flying more legs. They had this conversation often. A pilot walking through the SDF ‘ready room' in March 2013, witnessed the PM with her face down on the table. He approached her and she said she was ‘totally exhausted' and although she had a sleep room, it was an exterior room. He encouraged her to call in fatigued. A pilot who recently flew with the PM on a week-long trip felt that toward the end to the week, although she was responding to radio calls, she was ‘zoning out' during the cruise portion of the flight. He commented to her that she looked tired and she told him she was a little."
Testimony on pilot fatigue is expected during the afternoon session. The morning focused on non-precision approaches.
Capt. Drew Middleton, testifying on behalf of the Independent Pilots Association, says non-precision approaches are relatively rare. Last year, he testified they probably accounted for around 1% of his total landings.
However, Middleton said that the plane was not responding the way the UPS pilots expected it to. According to Middleton at least four cues on the plane's instruments should have shown up differently if the airplane was on the correct path. The discrepancy should have alerted the pilots that the plane was not on the correct path.
Instead, Flight 1354, an Airbus A-300, approached the runway on too shallow of a path and crashed less than a mile short of the runway at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.