Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Update on the UPS Boeing 747 freighter crash in Dubai

by B. N. Sullivan

The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) of the United Arab Emirates has provided some preliminary details about its investigation of the crash of a UPS Boeing 747-400 freighter in Dubai earlier this month.  The accident occurred on September 3, 2010.  Both pilots perished in the accident.

In a news release dated September 5, 2010, the GCAA gave this account of the accident:
The UPS6 B744 had departed from Dubai International Airport at 14:53 UTC (6:53pm local time) headed to Koln-Bonn (Cologne) - Germany.  At 15:15 UTC (7:15pm local time) information was received from Bahrain that the aircraft was returning to Dubai Airport with a smoke in the cockpit, unable to maintain altitude and requested the airport for landing.

The UAE ATC Centre issued a clearance when aircraft was approximately 40 kilometer from touchdown.  The aircraft was high on the approach and was at 8500ft at 24 kilometer from touchdown.  It passed the overhead the airfield very high and made a right turn. Position reports were passed the tower as well as advising that all runways were available for the aircraft to land on. The aircraft tracked south west and rapidly lost altitude.  At approximately 15:42 UTC (7:42pm local time), radar contact was lost.  The B744 crashed in in an unpopulated area between the Emirates Road and Al Ain Highway after 50 minutes from departure and after returning back from Bahrain FIR (Flight Information Region).

The GCAA responded by launching an immediate investigation team who are currently on site collecting evidence, analyzing the initial onsite evidence, coordinating with all of the emergency services to secure the accident site, liaising with the aircraft manufacturer technical specialists and international accident investigation bodies who have invited to assist the GCAA onsite in the UAE under the provisions of ICAO Annex 13.

The investigation team recovered the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) approximately 6 hours after the accident; the onsite GCAA investigation team is continuing the recovery effort to locate the Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR), while investigating the aircraft structure, systems, engines and flight controls as part of the forensic evidence collecting and data capturing activities associated with major air accident investigation.
Then, in a news release dated September 13, 2010, the GCAA announced that the Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) also had been recovered from the aircraft wreckage, and was in "reasonable condition."  The GCAA said that both devices were being sent to the United States for analysis.  One GCAA investigator will travel to the U.S. "to work on data recovery with the American investigation team."

An article published online by the Khaleej Times reported on preliminary data gathered by the GCAA.
The initial analysis of the downloaded data indicated that there was a fire warning followed by smoke in the cockpit as reported by the crew about 28 minutes from takeoff.  The crew were asked by Bahrain Air Traffic Control to land at Doha, but they decided to return to Dubai.  Then they experienced cockpit visibility and commutation problems.  Later on the crew declared Mayday (a call used to declare that aircraft is in distress).  The Captain was in control up to the end of the recording.
The investigation is continuing.

RELATED: Click here to view all articles about this accident on Aircrew Buzz.