By Verna Gates
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. Aug 16 U.S. government
investigators looking into the crash of a UPS cargo plane said
on Friday the pilots received a low altitude warning seven
seconds before the sound of impact, according to data recovered
from the cockpit voice recorder.
Investigators retrieved data from the flight recorders on
Friday that could shed light on Wednesday's fiery crash in
Alabama that killed the jet's pilot and co-pilot.
"We'll know everything that was said in the cockpit," said
National Transportation Safety Board investigator Robert
Sumwalt. "I personally breathed a huge sigh of relief once I
learned we had good data."
His comments confirmed that the cockpit voice and flight
data recorders from the downed United Parcel Service Inc
plane contained information that could help pinpoint the cause
of the crash.
Sumwalt said the pilots received only one of two warnings
about their altitude. A second warning, known as the Minimum
Safe Altitude Warning, which is part of airports' radar systems'
software, detects whether a plane is descending at a rate that
could be hazardous.
"It did not alert," he said.
The cockpit voice and flight recorders arrived at the NTSB's
headquarters in Washington late on Thursday, hours after they
were pulled from a heap of melted plastic and debris at the
Preliminary results from the agency's investigation, which
is still in its early stages, have shown no evidence of engine
fire, and the pilots did not issue a distress call.
The Airbus A300 jet was approaching the runway at
Birmingham-Shuttlesworth airport before dawn when it clipped the
trees in an adjacent residential area and crashed well short of
The NTSB has sent investigators to Louisville, Kentucky, to
study the A300's maintenance records, Sumwalt said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation was helping with
documentation and the collection of evidence, Sumwalt said in a
videotaped interview from the crash site, posted on the website
of the Birmingham News.
"I think the wreckage should probably be moved out of here
in about seven days," Sumwalt said. "We want to make sure we've
got everything documented before we release it to the airline."
UPS identified the crew members who died as 58-year-old
Cerea Beal Jr., of Matthews, North Carolina, and Shanda Fanning,
37, of Lynchburg, Tennessee.
Beal, the captain, had been with UPS since 1990, and before
that he served more than six years in the U.S. Marine Corps as
a helicopter operator.