Two UPS Airbus A300-600 pilots died because of the captain’s decision to continue an unstabilised approach in instrument conditions instead of performing a go-around manoeuvre, the US National Transportation Safey Board (NTSB) says.

That determination during a 9 September hearing came after noting lapses in crew resource management, communication between a dispatcher and the flightcrew and evidence of fatigue.

“Although this flight crew faced some challenges, they failed to take several important actions during their approach. They failed to monitor their altitude and communicate their respective actions during the approach. And at the crucial moment, the captain failed to discontinue the unstabilised approach and go-around,” says acting NTSB chairman Christopher Hart.

The UPS flight 1354 crashed short of the runway near Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Alabama at 04:47 on 14 August last year, killing both crewmembers on board the aircraft.

The flightcrew faced challenges with the flight even more takeoff. The first officer reported for duty with inadequate rest from a three-day off period. The captain had no deficit of rest, but was entering the low period of his circadian cycle.

Although the flightcrew was briefed of a 1,000ft cloud ceiling at the destination, they were not told by the dispatcher that the ceiling was variable. At the moment Flight 1354 approached Birmingham airport, the ceiling was a 300 feet, and the variation would play a role in the confusion in the cockpit that preceed the crash.

Despite an approach in instrument conditions, the captain decided to fly an unstabilised approach, but failed to clarify his intent to the first officer, according to the NTSB.

Part of the first officer’s function is to check the actions of the pilot flying. The captain, however, did not announce that he had switched to vertical speed mode on approach. At the same time, the captain increased the descent rate from 1,000fpm to 1,500fpm – well above the airline’s maximum rate for an unstabilised approach.

The first officer – perhaps slowed by fatigue – failed to call-out altitude and minimums, which might have alerted the captain that his descent profile was wrong.

In the end, the aircraft crashed on a small ahead several hundred feet ahead of Runway 18 at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth airport.

Source: Cirium Dashboard