LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - August 14 marks one year since a UPS plane crashed just short of the runway in Alabama killing both pilots. Those cargo planes fly over our homes while we sleep each night, so what do we know now about why Flight 1354 crashed in Birmingham?
A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said by this fall, the board should have the final report on the crash. Whether it will address the major issue that UPS pilots see as a part of this crash - how much rest they get -- remains to be seen.
Out of the morning darkness, and trying to land on a shorter, less-equipped Birmingham runway than the one usually used by commercial aviation, something caused UPS Captain Cerea Beal and First Officer Shanda Fanning to come up short of the airport. After a day-long hearing in February it became clear the plane was mechanically sound. So what happened with the pilots?
[PREVIOUS STORY: New developments from voice recorder in UPS crash]
"A lot of times what I'll hear is I didn't know how tired I was until I got to the hotel," said First Officer Lauri Esposito, a representative of the Independent Pilots Association Fatigue Working Group.
The IPA is the union for UPS pilots and it believes fatigue is the key. The investigation found working hours and rest rules had long been a point of discussion for the company's pilots. A January FAA rule change, known as 14 CFR Part 117, that takes time of day into account for passenger pilot rest, does not apply to cargo pilots. In the cockpit the morning of the crash, Beal and Fanning said they didn't understand the distinction.
"It should be one level of safety for everyone," Beal said.
After the crash, other pilots came forward to say Beal had complained of more legs flown each night and longer trips, saying, "These schedules over the past several years are killing me."
In June, in a response to the NTSB, the IPA released the results of a survey of its pilots. Almost all, 92%, of the IPA members responded and 96% of those pilots said they'd not called in fatigued when they were, some citing fear of retribution or of being labeled a troublemaker.
For its part, UPS said in response to the NTSB that changing cargo rest rules would not enhance safety, but would impose high and unnecessary costs. In addition, a company review found that the trip flown by the pilots who crashed last year would have complied with the new passenger rest rules up to the point of the crash. Had the pilots continued on with the trip, it would not have later in the week.
UPS spokesman Jeff Wafford said in a statement, "We believe the anniversary is a time for reflection about the accident and the lives of our crew members. UPS places the highest emphasis on safety. We have spent the past year working with the NTSB to determine what caused the accident and how to avoid such an accident in the future. Since the accident, we have taken multiple steps, including enhanced training, procedures and weather information to further improve flight safety."
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