Cockpit voice and flight data recorders were retrieved on Thursday from the wreckage of the UPS cargo jet that crashed early Wednesday on approach to Birmingham, Alabama’s airport, the National Transportation Safety Board said.
The black boxes will be sent to the NTSB headquarters in Washington for evaluation of possible clues about the cause of the fiery crash of the United Parcel Service Inc aircraft in which two pilots were killed, agency spokesman Eric Weiss said.
The NTSB, which dispatched a team of investigators to the crash site on Wednesday, initially said the smoldering remains of the plane’s tail section were too hot to allow the retrieval of the flight recorders.
Pictures posted by the NTSB on Twitter showed staffers, wearing respirators and protective eye wear, pulling the recorders from charred and twisted debris.
A media briefing by the NTSB has been scheduled for 4 p.m. CDT (2100 GMT).
The cargo plane, an Airbus A300, clipped trees and nearly hit a house before plowing across about 200 yards of empty field well short of the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, a senior NTSB official said on Wednesday.
The official, Robert Sumwalt, said the pilots of the aircraft issued no emergency or distress calls before the plane crashed and burst into flames.
UPS flight 1354, which took off from Louisville, Kentucky, was on approach to the Birmingham airport when it crashed at about 5 a.m. CDT (1000 GMT), according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Kevin Hiatt, president and chief executive officer of the Flight Safety Foundation, an Alexandria, Virginia-based international watchdog group, said Birmingham-Shuttlesworth can be tricky to land at because it is nestled into surrounding hills.
That is especially true of Runway 18, which the UPS jet was approaching when it crashed into a tall hill at the north end of the airport, said Hiatt. A veteran former Delta Airlines pilot, Hiatt said he had touched down on the runway many times himself.
“It is not a full instrument landing. You have to visually fly into that runway. Sometimes it takes nuance to land there. You have to realize that hill is there or you could come in too low,” Hiatt told Reuters.
The crash occurred shortly before dawn, in rainy conditions as low-lying clouds hung over Birmingham.
“They were slanted south, coming in at a straight approach,” Hiatt said of the ill-fated UPS pilots.
“Since there was no distress call, everything seemed to be progressing normally,” he said. “They must have gotten blindsided by something that happened, perhaps with the engines