Pilot Fatigue Debated in Fatal UPS Crash as Union Submits Study

May 20, 2014 3:02 pm ET

May 20 (Bloomberg) -- The two United Parcel Service Inc. pilots who crashed a cargo airplane last year in Birmingham, Alabama, were probably fatigued, a study by the flight crew’s union found.

The filing by the Independent Pilots Association puts them in conflict with UPS, which filed a separate report to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board concluding that it was errors by the flight crew that triggered the pre-dawn accident.

The dueling submissions underscore tensions between the labor group and the company over pilot work schedules. Both pilots died when the Airbus SAS A300-600 plane they were trying to land on Aug. 14, slammed into a dark hillside short of the runway, breaking apart and bursting into flames.

The captain on the flight, Cerea Beal, had told a fellow UPS pilot the nighttime schedules at the carrier were “killing him and he could not keep this up,” according to documents released in February by the NTSB. Atlanta-based UPS is the world’s largest package-delivery company.

The NTSB is expected to issue its findings in the accident later this year. The union and carrier reports were submitted so that NTSB may consider their suggestions for what caused the accident.

Cargo airlines were exempted from pilot-rest rules that went into effect Jan. 4 for passenger carriers. The IPA has lobbied Congress and filed a lawsuit seeking to include cargo airlines in the new standards.