UPS Airlines Flight 6
N571UP, the aircraft involved, seen on approach in Dubai in November 2008
|Date||September 3, 2010|
|Summary||In-flight uncontained cargo fire caused by lithium ion batteries; further aggravated by pilot error|
|Site||Nad Al Sheba Military camp, Dubai, United Arab Emirates |
|Aircraft type||Boeing 747-44AF/SCD|
|IATA flight No.||5X6|
|ICAO flight No.||UPS6|
|Call sign||UPS 6|
|Flight origin||Dubai International Airport|
|Destination||Cologne Bonn Airport|
|Fatalities||2 (all); 1 died before the crash|
UPS Airlines Flight 6 was a cargo flight operated by UPS Airlines. On September 3, 2010, a Boeing 747-400F flying the route between Dubai International Airport and Cologne Bonn Airport developed an in-flight fire, with the fumes and subsequent crash resulting in the death of the two crew members. The aircraft had departed Dubai International earlier, but returned after reporting smoke in the cockpit. It was the first fatal air crash for UPS Airlines. The crash caused an examination of safety procedures protecting airliners from cockpit smoke.
Aircraft and crew
The aircraft involved in the accident was a Boeing 747-400F, registered N571UP and was delivered to UPS Airlines in 2007. It had flown for more than 10,000 hours, and had a major inspection performed in June 2010. Before the crash, it was among the newest (#1,393 of 1,418; the 26th from the last) Boeing 747s built before 747-8 series.
The captain was 48-year-old Douglas Lampe of Louisville, Kentucky, and the first officer was 38-year-old Matthew Bell from Sanford, Florida. Both crew members were based in UPS's Anchorage, Alaska pilot base.
Flight 6 departed from Dubai International at 14:53 UTC. At 15:15 the EICAS message FIRE MAIN DK FWD appeared on the upper EICAS display, and the crew reported the fire in the cockpit when the aircraft was around 120 nautical miles (138 mi; 222 km) west-northwest of Dubai. An emergency was declared shortly afterwards. The pilots were under the control of Bahrain's air traffic control (ATC), and they could not initially contact Dubai ATC due to the thick smoke in the cockpit obscuring the radio panel. Although they were offered a diversion to Doha, Qatar, Captain Lampe made the decision to return to Dubai. The thick smoke required the pilots to communicate with nearby planes over VHF to relay messages to Bahrain ATC, as Bell was unable to see the radio through the smoke. The aircraft involved in relaying messages from UPS 6 included three Boeing 737-800s operated by flydubai, and the Dubai Royal Air Wing's own 747-400, callsign Dubai One.
Lampe elected to disengage the autopilot and fly the plane manually. Upon doing so, he discovered that he had no elevator control. The fire had burnt through the protective fire-resistant liner that covered the cargo hold and destroyed the primary flight control system, crippling the 747. At 15:20, Lampe's oxygen mask failed and he relinquished command of the plane to First Officer Bell. Lampe left his seat to get the Emergency Reserve Oxygen System (EROS) oxygen mask, which was stowed behind his seat, but was incapacitated by the acrid smoke and lost consciousness, collapsing to the cockpit floor. It was believed that the fire had also cut off the oxygen supply to the EROS mask, leaving Lampe with no oxygen left to return to the pilot seat and fly the plane. Bell was instructed to land on the airport's runway 12L. The aircraft was too high on the approach and the gear did not extend. The aircraft passed over the airport before making a tight turn. Bell attempted to turn towards Sharjah International Airport but unknowingly turned in the wrong direction. Radar contact was lost shortly thereafter at 15:42 UTC. The aircraft finally slammed into the ground at a shallow angle and at high speed in an unpopulated area between the Emirates Road and Al Ain Highway, barely missing Dubai Silicon Oasis. The right wing hit the ground first and the burning 747 skidded a few meters, and exploded in a fireball, killing Bell instantly. Other than ATC, many initial reports came from pilots working for Emirates who were living in the community.
The National Transportation Safety Board announced that it would dispatch an aviation investigator to assist the United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) in its investigation of the crash. Boeing offered to send a team to the United Arab Emirates to provide technical assistance in the investigation process.
Following the recovery of the cockpit voice recorder, the GCAA issued a preliminary report on September 5, 2010. On September 7, the authorities discovered the flight data recorder. The government of Bahrain decided to conduct its own investigation into the accident. UPS also sent its own investigation team. The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were sent to the United States for analysis by the National Transportation Safety Board on September 10, 2010.
The investigation revived safety concerns about the effects of smoke in the cockpit. The crash also revived concerns over whether smoke hoods should be allowed in the cockpit. Prior to the crash of UPS Flight 6, debate over whether manufacturers and regulators had been doing enough to prevent airborne fires had occurred. Around the time of the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board had asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to install automatic fire extinguisher systems in the holds of cargo aircraft. UPS Airlines followed FAA regulations, which stated that pilots should depressurize the main cabin and climb to an altitude of at least 20,000 feet (6,100 m) upon detection of a fire so as to deprive the flames of oxygen.
On September 23, 2010, the GCAA reported that 100% of the material contained in the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder was successfully downloaded by the NTSB and that the data was being analyzed. In October 2010, Boeing announced that fire indication checklists were to be modified to instruct pilots that at least one of the three air conditioning systems must be left in operation in order to prevent excessive smoke accumulation on the flight deck.
On July 24, 2013, the GCAA released the final investigation report. The report indicated that the fire was caused by the autoignition of the contents of a cargo pallet, which contained more than 81,000 lithium type batteries and "other combustible materials".
In October 2010, the FAA issued a Safety Alert for Operators highlighting the fact that the cargo on board Flight 6 contained a large quantity of lithium type batteries. The FAA issued a restriction on the carrying of lithium batteries in bulk on passenger flights.
The crash was featured in the 15th season of Mayday (or Air Crash Investigation) on 11 January 2016. The episode aired on the National Geographic Channel in United Kingdom and the rest of the world and is entitled "Fatal Delivery".
- MK Airlines Flight 1602
- Swissair Flight 111
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