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UPS pilot lost steering control before plane crash

UPS pilot lost steering control before plane crash

The pilot of the USP plane that crashed in Dubai killing two people may not have been able to steer due to a fire that caused the control cables to loosen, an interim report by Dubai’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has said.

» Aviation - W | Monday, December 12, 2011 • Air News Times
Smoke from a fire caused by lithium-ion batteries reduced the pilot’s visibility as he tried to conduct an emergency landing on Sept 3, 2010, the report said. The pilot also struggled with low emergency oxygen before crashing into Nad Al Sheba military camp.

“The consequential effects of the fire regarding the compromised flight controls, flight crew supplemental oxygen system, the environmental control system, fire suppression and cockpit visibility are understood, however, further detailed investigation is ongoing to determine the requisite safety recommendations to address the findings,” noted GCAA.

GCAA’s interim investigation into the accident, which took place less than an hour after taking off Dubai International Airport, follows sheds further light on the incident. The earlier report said the lithium batteries onboard the plane should have been declared hazardous cargo.  

The Boeing 747 was carrying flammable batteries that were “distributed throughout the cargo decks” while “lithium ion battery packs” should have been singled out and handled as hazardous cargo, an April report by the aviation authority said.

GCAA also noted that the two shipments of lithium-ion batteries were tested “in accordance with [UN] standards, no UN test report was provided to verify that such tests were completed.”
The interim report details the pilot’s request for emergency landing following the outbreak of a fire on board shortly after take-off.  It details a conversation between the two pilots in which Captain Doug Lampe tells First Officer Matthew Bell he no longer has control of the airplane.

“The DFDR [digital flight data recorder] indicates that there was a control column movement anomaly between the input by the crew on the control column and the travel of the elevators,” said the report.

The Yemen wing of the terrorist group Al Qaeda had previously claimed it was behind the plane crash following initial reports of an explosion on board.

The use of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, used in laptops and mobile phones, has soared since the late 1990s. The transportation of the batteries has become increasing contentious following a fire onboard a UPS plane in the US five years ago. Much of the investigation into the Dubai plane crash has centered on its lithium-ion cargo.

The Obama administration has attempted to impose regulations requiring that air shipments of the batteries be treated as hazardous cargo because of the danger of fires during flight. But US lawmakers last week tentatively blocked the administration.

“We’re very concerned that unless this issue is addressed we’ll continue to see accidents and we’ll continue to see fatalities,” Mark Rogers, from the Air Line Pilots Association’s committee on hazardous cargo, told.
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