WASHINGTON — The crew of a U.P.S. cargo jet that crashed on approach to Birmingham, Ala., last August had planned to land by using a method that was rare for them, following a computer-generated path to give vertical guidance, according to testimony given Thursday at a National Transportation Safety Board hearing. But the crew changed its strategy in the last minutes because the onboard computer did not perform as they had planned, investigators said.
At the hearing, strong parallels emerged to the crash of an Asiana passenger plane at San Francisco International Airport five weeks earlier: heavy pilot reliance on automation, possible failure to anticipate its limits, not enough experience landing without a full instrument system, and failure to keep track of key parameters. In the Asiana crash, which killed three people and destroyed a Boeing 777, the issue was airspeed; in the Birmingham crash, of an Airbus A300, it was altitude. The safety board is also looking into fatigue in the Birmingham crash, which came shortly before 5 a.m. and killed both people on board.
The National Transportation Safety Board is holding hearings into the Aug. 14 crash of a U.P.S. cargo jet in Birmingham, Ala. Hal Yeager/Associated Press
According to documents released by the safety board, the captain in the Birmingham crash, Cerea Beal, 58, had told co-workers that the schedule was very hard. “I can’t do this until I retire because it’s killing me,” he was...
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