Sources: Fire may have erupted on UPS 747

WASHINGTON — The fire that broke out in a UPS plane that crashed last week in Dubai, killing both pilots, appears to have begun in a cargo compartment, according to people familiar with the accident investigation.

Accident investigators are now trying to verify which cargo aboard the Boeing 747-400 was located just forward of the starboard wing, where the fire erupted, those familiar with the investigation said. Investigators also want to know if there were any lithium-ion batteries in that location. If a battery short-circuits, it can catch fire and ignite others.

The location of the fire was identified so quickly because the plane was equipped with a sophisticated data transmission system that sent information via satellite to the company’s airline operations headquarters in Louisville, Ky. The transmissions are so fast, people familiar with the investigation said, that UPS’ airline operations half a world away had information in hand indicating the plane was in serious trouble before it crashed.

Those familiar with the investigation who discussed the preliminary findings asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

Atlanta-based UPS, formally known as United Parcel Service Inc., has identified the crew members killed in the crash as Capt. Doug Lampe of Louisville, Ky., 48, and First Officer Matthew Bell, 38, of Sanford, Fla. Lampe had been with UPS since 1995. Bell had been with the company since 2006. Both flew out of UPS’s Anchorage, Alaska, pilot base.

UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot confirmed that the crashed plane was equipped with an airplane health management system, Boeing’s name for the transmission system. He declined to comment directly on the crash or what information the company received from the plane before the accident.

AHM systems help “self-diagnose” problems in flight and alert the airline before landing so that maintenance workers are ready to do repairs and parts are on hand. The systems aren’t standard on Boeing planes, but the company has been installing them on 747-400s for customers who request them for about five years, said Boeing spokesman Jim Proulx.

Among the data transmitted ahead of the Dubai crash, according to people familiar with the investigation, was an alert about a serious problem in the cargo compartment near the starboard wing.

The plane’s pilots also told air traffic controllers that a fire had broken out in the main compartment, and smoke was so thick that they were having trouble reading their instruments, people familiar with the investigation said.

Among the issues raised by the crash is whether FAA should require equipment be installed in cockpits that would enable pilots to read instruments — in most modern airliners that amounts to computer screens — even in heavy smoke. Pilot unions have been pressing for the equipment.

Pilots have limited options for extinguishing a fire in a cargo compartment, said aviation safety consultant Jack Casey. A continuously smoky fire is especially difficult, Casey said, because it interferes with pilots’ ability to breathe and see well enough to fly the plane.

The investigation is being led by UAE’s aviation authority, but a team led by the National Transportation Safety Board has flown to Dubai to assist the investigation.

A preliminary report released by UAE authorities on Sunday said the crew reported smoke in the cockpit about 20 minutes after taking off from Dubai on a flight to a UPS hub in Cologne, Germany. Air controllers in the nearby Gulf nation of Bahrain said the plane was returning to Dubai. But the crew on Flight 6 did not speak directly with the Dubai tower. For reasons still unclear, the crew could not switch from the Bahrain to the Dubai radio frequency.

The plane was not in the proper alignment to make an emergency landing in Dubai on its first pass, but then began losing altitude and crashed inside a UAE military camp, authorities said.

Investigators also want to exam the plane’s flight data recorder — which also monitors the plane’s systems — to see if it verifies the information received through the AHM system. The data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder will be sent to the United States for analysis, UAE authorities said.



National Transportation Safety Board

Talk to us

More in Local News

Lynnwood’s car tab fee and utility tax on chopping block again

City Council members will talk about repealing them. If they do, the mayor is prepared to veto their actions.

Most of Compass Health’s clinical employees at the Marysville, Monroe and Snohomish sites will transfer to its Everett locations. (Sue Misao / The Herald)
Lawsuit blames counselor’s ‘unethical’ relationship for Marysville man’s death

Joshua Klick was referred to a counselor at Compass Health. Two years later he was shot and killed.

Smokey Point Boulevard stretch closed for crash investigation

The road was closed between 136th Street NE and 152nd Street NE after a possibly fatal collision.

Doug Ewing looks out over a small section of the Snohomish River that he has been keeping clean for the last ten years on Thursday, May 19, 2022, at the Oscar Hoover Water Access Site in Snohomish, Washington. Ewing scours the shorelines and dives into the depths of the river in search of trash left by visitors, and has removed 59 truckloads of litter from the quarter-mile stretch over the past decade. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Diving for trash in Snohomish River, biologist fills 59 pickup beds

At Thomas’ Eddy, Doug Ewing estimates he has collected 3,000 pounds of lead fishing weights. And that’s just one spot.

Melissa Batson unfurls a Groundhog Day flag designed by her niece Wednesday, May 11, 2022, at her home in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Flags tell Monroe woman’s transgender journey — and more

The flagpole in her front yard is a visual for Facebook posts about who Melissa Batson is and how she got there.

Alyssa and Hart Bleifuss own and operate the newly opened Pie Dive Bar in Snohomish, Washington on May 17, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Pie Dive Bar opens in Snohomish. Yep, it’s exactly how it sounds.

Open a dive bar, but make it a late night pie bakery.

News logo for Food Forum. 20220418
A classic and simple recipe for sorrel soup

Visit your favorite farmers market to buy sorrel for this springtime recipe.

Wade Brickman works through a call with trainer Lars Coleman Friday afternoon at SNO911 in Everett, Washington on May 20, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
‘Difference between life and death’: New 911 tech saves vital seconds

Snohomish County is the first in the nation to get the new technology, which reduces delays on emergency calls.

Nuno Taborda
Former Rolls Royce executive to lead Everett aerospace firm

magniX, which builds electric aircraft motors, has hired Nuno Taborda as its next CEO.

Most Read