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Last seconds before UPS crash in Birmingham point to tricky airport approach (+video)

The UPS flight that crashed in Birmingham had to make a visual approach over hills to the airport’s shorter runway because the much longer, more familiar runway was closed for maintenance.

NTSB on the last seconds of UPS cargo crash
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Although it will be months before official reports are made, new clues are emerging about the cause of the crash of a UPS cargo plane short of the runway at the airport in Birmingham, Ala., early Wednesday morning.

So far, it appears to be a combination of weather (low clouds and raining), time of day (before dawn), and a tricky visual approach over hills to the airport’s shorter runway because the much longer, more familiar runway – the one that provided glide slope as well as direction information to approaching pilots – was closed for maintenance.

Initial evidence and eye-witness reports indicate that the Airbus A300 clipped power lines and trees, possibly ingesting debris into the engines, before crashing seconds later.

Investigators have recovered the flight recorder and cockpit voice recorder from the A300 aircraft flown by two pilots, both of whom were killed in the mishap.

So far, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials reported Friday, there is no indication of any mechanical malfunction or systems problem that might have caused the crash. The pilots had not radioed any distress warning.

National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt told reporters during a briefing Friday that a recorder captured the first of two audible warnings in the cockpit 16 seconds before the sound of an impact, either with trees or the ground.

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