UPS Airlines Flight 1354

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UPS Airlines Flight 1354
Nose and forward section of UPS 1354.jpg
The wreckage of N155UP at the crash site
DateAugust 14, 2013 (2013-08-14)
Summary Controlled flight into terrain due to pilot error
SiteNorth of Birmingham–Shuttlesworth International Airport, Alabama, United States
33°35′2.061″N86°44′51.9822″W / 33.58390583°N 86.747772833°W / 33.58390583; -86.747772833 Coordinates: 33°35′2.061″N86°44′51.9822″W / 33.58390583°N 86.747772833°W / 33.58390583; -86.747772833
Aircraft type Airbus A300F4-622R
Operator UPS Airlines
IATA flight No.5X1354
ICAO flight No.UPS1354
Call signUPS 1354
Registration N155UP
Flight origin Louisville International Airport, Kentucky, United States
Destination Birmingham–Shuttlesworth International Airport, Alabama, United States

UPS Airlines Flight 1354 was a scheduled cargo flight from Louisville, Kentucky, to Birmingham, Alabama. On August 14, 2013, the Airbus A300 flying the route crashed and burst into flames short of the runway on approach to Birmingham–Shuttlesworth International Airport. [1] [2] [3] Both pilots were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. They were the only people aboard the aircraft. [4]

Birmingham, Alabama Most populous city in Alabama, United States

Birmingham is a city in the north central region of the U.S. state of Alabama. With an estimated 2018 population of 209,880, it is the most populous city in Alabama. Birmingham is the seat of Jefferson County, Alabama's most populous and fifth largest county. As of 2018, the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 1,151,801, making it the most populous in Alabama and 49th-most populous in the United States. Birmingham serves as an important regional hub and is associated with the Deep South, Piedmont, and Appalachian regions of the nation.

Airbus A300 Worlds first twin-engine widebody jet airliner

The Airbus A300 is a wide-body medium range twin-engine jet airliner developed and manufactured by Airbus. Formally announced in 1969 and first flying in October 1972, it holds the distinction of being the world's first twin-engined widebody airliner; it was also the first product of Airbus Industrie, a consortium of European aerospace manufacturers, now known as Airbus. The A300 can typically seat 266 passengers in a two-class layout, with a maximum range of 4,070 nautical miles (7,540 km) when fully loaded, depending on model.

Birmingham–Shuttlesworth International Airport

Birmingham–Shuttlesworth International Airport, formerly Birmingham Municipal Airport and later Birmingham International Airport, is a civil-military airport serving Birmingham, Alabama and its metropolitan area, including Tuscaloosa. It is in Jefferson County, five miles northeast of downtown Birmingham, near the interchange of Interstates 20 and 59.



The aircraft crashed at about 04:47 local time (CDT, 09:47 UTC) while making a localizer non-precision approach to runway 18 at Birmingham–Shuttlesworth International Airport. It clipped trees and struck ground three times uphill. The fuselage broke apart, with the nose coming to rest about 200 yards (180 m; 600 ft) away from the initial point of impact, and the rest of it about 80 yards (70 m; 240 ft) farther down towards the runway and about 1 kilometer (0.6 mi; 0.5 nmi) from its edge and catching fire. Both pilots were killed. [1] :9 [3] [5]


A UPS Airbus A300-600, similar to N155UP UPS Airlines Airbus A300 LDS.jpg
A UPS Airbus A300-600, similar to N155UP

The aircraft involved in the accident was an Airbus A300F4-622R, registered as N155UP. It was built in 2003; UPS took delivery of it in February 2004. [6] It was powered by Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines. At the time of the accident, it had accumulated approximately 11,000 flight hours in 6,800 flight cycles (a flight cycle is one takeoff and landing). [1] :19–33 [7]

Pratt & Whitney PW4000 High-bypass turbofan aircraft engine

The Pratt & Whitney PW4000 is a family of high-bypass turbofan aircraft engines with certified thrust ranging from 52,000 to 99,040 lbf. Built as the successor to the JT9D series engines, it has found much wider application than its predecessor.


The captain of Flight 1354 was 58-year old Cerea Beal, Jr. [8] Prior to being hired by UPS, Beal was employed by TWA as a flight engineer and then first officer on the Boeing 727. He was hired by UPS in October 1990 as a 727 flight engineer and became a 727 first officer in August 1994. [1] :11 Twice, in 2000 and again in 2002, Beal began and then withdrew from training to upgrade to captain on the 727. [1] :11 [9] He transitioned to the A300 as a first officer in 2004 and then as a captain in 2009. At the time of the accident, he had accumulated 6,406 flight hours at UPS, 3,265 of which were on the A300. [1] :10–14

Flight engineer crew position responsible for operating engines and other systems onboard an aircraft

A flight engineer (FE), also sometimes called an air engineer, is the member of an aircraft's flight crew who monitors and operates its complex aircraft systems. In the early era of aviation, the position was sometimes referred to as the "air mechanic". Flight engineers can still be found on some larger fixed-wing airplanes, and helicopters. A similar crew position exists on some spacecraft. In most modern aircraft, their complex systems are both monitored and adjusted by electronic microprocessors and computers, resulting in the elimination of the flight engineer's position.

Boeing 727

The Boeing 727 is an American midsized, narrow-body three-engined jet aircraft built by Boeing Commercial Airplanes from the early 1960s to 1984. It can carry 149 to 189 passengers and later models can fly up to 2,700 nautical miles (5,000 km) nonstop. Intended for short and medium-length flights, the 727 can use relatively short runways at smaller airports. It has three Pratt & Whitney JT8D engines below the T-tail, one on each side of the rear fuselage with a center engine that connects through an S-duct to an inlet at the base of the fin. The 727 is the only Boeing trijet, as a commercial design entering production.

The first officer was 37-year-old Shanda Fanning. [10] Fanning was hired by UPS in 2006 as a 727 flight engineer. She became a first officer on the Boeing 757 in 2007, then transitioned to the Boeing 747 in 2009. She began flying the A300 in June 2012. At the time of the accident, she had accumulated 4,721 total flight hours, including 403 hours on the A300. [1] :15–18

Boeing 757 Airliner family by Boeing

The Boeing 757 is a mid-sized, narrow-body short to medium range, twin-engine airliner that was designed and built by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. It is the manufacturer's largest single-aisle passenger aircraft and was produced from 1981 to 2004. The twinjet has a two-crew member glass cockpit, turbofan engines of sufficient power to allow takeoffs from relatively short runways and higher altitudes, a conventional tail and, for reduced aerodynamic drag, a supercritical wing design. Intended to replace the smaller three-engine 727 on short and medium routes, the 757 can carry 200 to 295 passengers for a maximum of 3,150 to 4,100 nautical miles, depending on variant. The 757 was designed concurrently with a wide-body twinjet, the 767, and, owing to shared features, pilots can obtain a common type rating that allows them to operate both aircraft.

Boeing 747 American wide-body commercial jet aircraft

The Boeing 747 is an American wide-body commercial jet airliner and cargo aircraft. The first wide-body airplane produced, it was the first plane dubbed a "Jumbo Jet". Its distinctive hump upper deck along the forward part of the aircraft has made it one of the most recognizable aircraft. Manufactured by Boeing's Commercial Airplane unit in the United States, the 747 was originally planned to have 150 percent greater capacity than the Boeing 707, a common large commercial aircraft of the 1960s. First flown commercially in 1970, the 747 held the passenger capacity record for 37 years.


NTSB investigators examine the wreckage at the crash site NTSB investigators Clint Crookshanks and Steve Magladry examining wreckage from UPS flight 1354 (9518979864).jpg
NTSB investigators examine the wreckage at the crash site

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) launched an investigation and sent a 26-member "go team" to the crash site to "collect perishable evidence". At a press conference held later on the same day, the NTSB said they had been unable to recover the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder as the tail section (where the recorders are housed) was still on fire. [5] Both recorders were recovered on the following day, and were sent for analysis. [1] :37 [11]

National Transportation Safety Board United States government investigative agency for civil transportation accidents

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent U.S. government investigative agency responsible for civil transportation accident investigation. In this role, the NTSB investigates and reports on aviation accidents and incidents, certain types of highway crashes, ship and marine accidents, pipeline incidents, and railroad accidents. When requested, the NTSB will assist the military and foreign governments with accident investigation. The NTSB is also in charge of investigating cases of hazardous materials releases that occur during transportation. The agency is based in Washington, D.C. As of December 2014, it has four regional offices located in Anchorage, Alaska; Denver, Colorado; Ashburn, Virginia; and Seattle, Washington. The agency also operates a national training center at its Ashburn facility.

At their third media briefing on August 16, 2013, the NTSB reported that the crew had briefed the approach to runway 18 and were cleared to land by air traffic control two minutes prior to the end of the recording. 16 seconds before the end of the recording, the aircraft's ground proximity warning system sounded two "sink rate" alerts, meaning that the aircraft was descending too rapidly. Three seconds later, Captain Beal reported having the runway in sight, which was confirmed by First Officer Fanning. The CVR recorded the sound of the first impact with trees 3 seconds after the pilots reported seeing the runway. A final "too low terrain" alert by the GPWS was then recorded, followed by the final sounds of impact. [1] :8 [3] [12]

To represent the country of manufacture, the French aviation accident investigation agency BEA, assisted by Airbus technical advisors, participated in the investigation. [13] Members of the FBI Evidence Response Team also assisted the NTSB. [14] The NTSB stated in late August that no mechanical anomalies had yet been uncovered, but that the complete investigation would take several months. [15]

On February 20, 2014, the NTSB held a public hearing in connection with its investigation. Excerpts from the cockpit voice recorder were presented, in which both the captain and first officer discussed their lack of sufficient sleep prior to the flight. [16]

On September 9, 2014 the National Transportation Safety Board announced that the probable cause of the accident was that the aircrew had made an unstabilized approach into Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport during which they failed to adequately monitor their altitude. The aircraft descended below the minimum descent altitude when the runway was not yet in sight, resulting in controlled flight into terrain approximately 3,300 feet short of the runway threshold. The NTSB also found that contributing factors in the accident were:

  1. the flight crew’s failure to properly configure and verify the flight management computer for the profile approach;
  2. the captain’s failure to communicate his intentions to the first officer once it became apparent the vertical profile was not captured;
  3. incomplete weather information that led the flight crew to expect they would break out of cloud at 1,000 feet above ground level;
  4. the first officer’s failure to make the required minimums callouts;
  5. the captain’s performance deficiencies, likely due to factors including, but not limited to, fatigue, distraction, or confusion, consistent with performance deficiencies exhibited during training, and;
  6. the first officer’s fatigue due to acute sleep loss resulting from her ineffective off-duty time management. [1] [2] [17]


NTSB hearing, September 2014 NTSB board meeting on the crash of UPS flight 1354 (15167281586).jpg
NTSB hearing, September 2014

In 2014, the Independent Pilots Association filed suit against the FAA to end the cargo airplane exemption from the flight crew minimum rest requirements. [18] In 2016 the lawsuit was dismissed by a Washington, DC court, which determined the FAA had acted reasonably by excluding cargo airlines from the rest requirement based on a cost vs benefits analysis. [19]

Bret Fanning, husband of first officer Shanda Fanning, filed a lawsuit against Honeywell Aerospace in 2014, alleging that its ground proximity warning system installed on the A300 failed to alert the pilots that their aircraft was dangerously close to the ground. [20] Fanning claimed that the GPWS did not sound an alarm until one second after the aircraft began to clip the tops of trees; [20] however, the NTSB determined from the aircraft's flight data recorder that the GPWS sounded a "sink rate" warning when the aircraft was 250 feet above the ground, 8 seconds before the first impact with trees. [1] :7–8

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