The pilots of UPS flight 1354 were attempting to land on the shorter runway of Birmingham Shuttlesworth International airport before it crashed, because the airport's longer runway was closed for maintenance, says the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The Airbus A300-600 freighter was to land on runway 18 because the longer runway 6/24 was closed for repair to centerline lights during the 14 August incident, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt says during a press conference in Birmingham, Alabama today.
Runway 18 is 7,099ft long and has no instrument landing system, while runway 6/24 is 11,998ft long and does have an instrument approach, according to AirNav.com.
Sumwalt says the NTSB has recovered the flight data record and cockpit voice recorder and has sent them to Washington for analysis. Those recorders were in the smouldering tail section of the aircraft last night, nearly 12 hours after the crash.
Sumwalt says he is hopeful the recorders will yield good data.
Sumwalt says evidence exists of an uncontained fire in the aircraft's Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines, but the engines show signs of ingesting foreign debris from dirt and trees.
The engines will be sent to the manufacturer for further evaluation, says the NTSB.
Sumwalt says the agency has obtained radar data that will allow it to plot the aircraft's position, altitude and speed during approach.
In addition, the agency has requested UPS to provide them with crew-related documents, including information about the pilots' scheduling, training and other employment information.
"UPS is cooperating fully with us," Sumwalt says.
The NTSB's maintenance records group expects to convene tomorrow morning in Louisville, Kentucky to "pore over" the maintenance history of the aircraft, and investigators are interviewing air traffic controllers in Birmingham.
The aircraft struck trees and crashed at 06:11 Eastern Time (05:11 local time) yesterday in a field near the airport, the NTSB has said.