Two pilots of a UPS cargo jet that crashed last August complained about the company's exhausting work schedules just before they took off on their last flight. The pilots made errors shortly before the plane flew into a hillside and became engulfed in flames. Both pilots were killed in the pre-dawn crash that occurred near Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Birmingham, Alabama. The morning they attempted to land, the main runway was closed for maintenance. Captain Cerea Beal Jr. was trying to land on a much shorter runway that did not have a full instrument landing system, which helps keep planes from coming in too low or too high.
According to information presented to the National Transportation Safety Board, UPS pilots land at airports without the assistance of a full instrument landing system only once or twice a year. In addition to the lack of a full instrument landing system, the pilots also failed to properly program the plane's computer system for this type of landing. Without completing the last step in programming the system, the computer could not provide critical navigation help. The pilots became aware that the computer could not help them, but they did not abort the landing and attempt it again, which would have been the expected and preferred action. Beal also set the descent rate of that runway too high. Within moments, the plane struck the tops of trees and an alert went off that it was about the crash into the ground.
Not long after the flight left Louisville, Beal complained to First Officer Shanda Fanning that cargo pilots do not get as much time to rest between work shifts as pilots of passenger airlines. Fanning agreed and Beal stated that regulations governing pilot hours should be uniform. According to a summary of interviews gathered by investigators, "About 7 weeks before the accident, he told a colleague that the schedules were becoming more demanding because they were flying up to three legs per night." The NTSB has long expressed concern about operator fatigue--an issue which shows up continuously across all forms of transportation. The FAA issued new rules a couple years ago that addressed the need for pilot rest, but cargo airlines were exempted from the rules.
Pilots reported fatigue, erred in UPS jet crash www.palmbeachpost.com February 20, 2014