x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Black box analysis shows smoke in doomed UPS plane 28 minutes into flight

Pilots on board UPS Flight 6, which crashed in Dubai this month, reported smoke in the cockpit less than half an hour after take-off, civil aviation investigators said yesterday.

DUBAI // The pilots on board UPS Flight 6, which crashed in Dubai this month, reported smoke in the cockpit less than half an hour after take-off, civil aviation investigators said yesterday. The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) announced there was a "fire warning" and that the crew reported smoke in the cockpit 28 minutes after the cargo plane left Dubai International Airport en route to Cologne, Germany, on September 3.

Bahraini air traffic control also suggested the plane land in Doha, but the pilots opted to return to Dubai, according to the GCAA, in a statement issued through WAM, the state news agency. The crew then experienced "cockpit visibility and communication problems" before issuing a Mayday distress call. The information was found in the plane's two flight data recorders, or black boxes, which were sent to the US for analysis on Friday. According to the GCAA, the captain was in control "up to the end of the recording".

Last week investigators found both of the boxes, which contain voice and data recordings, among the wreckage of the Boeing 747-400, which crashed less than an hour after taking off from Dubai. Saif al Suwaidi, the director general of the GCAA, said investigators are still trying to retrieve all the information from the recorders, something he anticipates will take another five days. "During the first 28 minutes it seems there were no problems, but we got from the recorders that the problems came when the alarm came on at 28 minutes," Mr al Suwaidi said.

"It seems like the pilot tried to manage the flying, but in time the smoke must have increased in the cockpit to make his situation difficult." UPS Flight 6 was unable to change radio frequency after entering Bahraini airspace, making it impossible to communicate directly with Dubai air traffic control. The pilots chose to return to Dubai after issuing the distress call, and maintained communication through Bahraini air traffic control.

According to Mr al Suwaidi, investigators are still looking into what caused the communications problems and why the pilots were unable to change their radio frequency. A preliminary report from the GCAA said that at 7.42pm air traffic control lost radar contact with the plane, which then crashed inside the Nad al Sheba Military Camp, killing the two crew members on board, Capt Doug Lampe and First Officer Matthew Bell, both Americans.

The investigation into the crash, led by the GCAA, continues. @Email:zconstantine@thenational.ae