UPS 747 had smoke in cockpit before Dubai crash

Pilots on board a UPS cargo plane faced radio problems and smoke in the cockpit as they struggled to maintain altitude before crashing into the desert outside Dubai last week, investigators said on Sunday.

Last Updated: Sep 05, 2010, 21:21 PM IST

Dubai: Pilots on board a UPS cargo plane
faced radio problems and smoke in the cockpit as they
struggled to maintain altitude before crashing into the desert
outside Dubai last week, investigators said on Sunday.

What exactly caused Friday`s crash remains under
investigation. The UAE`s General Civil Aviation Authority said
in a preliminary report the Boeing 747-400`s two-man crew was
trying to return to Dubai`s main airport - the Mideast`s
busiest - when the plane went down. Both crew members were
killed.

Just over 20 minutes into the flight, air traffic
controllers in Dubai received word from officials in the
nearby Gulf nation of Bahrain that the plane was on its way
back after reporting smoke in the cockpit.

The jet was "unable to maintain altitude," the report
said.

Crew members were unable to speak directly with air
traffic controllers in Dubai as they attempted to land,
however, because the pilot had already switched his radio to a
different frequency and for some reason couldn`t switch it
back, Saif al-Suwaidi, the GCAA`s director-general, said to a news agency.

"What we know is the pilot couldn`t change the
frequency ... so the only solution was to relay the messages
from Bahrain to Dubai," al-Suwaidi said.

Air traffic controllers informed the crew that all
runways had been cleared for landing, but the plane came in
"too high and too fast" and couldn`t maintain the correct
angle for approach, al-Suwaidi said. It passed over the
airport before making a right turn toward the desert, then
rapidly lost altitude and disappeared from the radar.

The plane - which has a wingspan of 64.6 meters and
length of 70.7 meters _ went down at 7:42 p.m., about 50
minutes after takeoff, in an unpopulated area between two
major highways.

Flight 6 was en route to the UPS hub in Cologne,
Germany.

Al-Suwaidi said it was unclear why the plane turned
back toward Dubai rather than heading toward an airport in
Bahrain, which was responsible for the plane`s flight path
when crew reported smoke in the cockpit.

"It is the pilot`s decision. Once he declares an
emergency, it is his responsibility to declare the most
suitable airport," he said.

Emirati investigators sifted through the wreckage
looking for clues today. Members of the media were kept away
from the debris field, located on a military camp.

The plane`s cockpit voice recorder was recovered about
six hours after the crash, the aviation authority said.

Investigators are still searching for the plane`s
other "black box" - the digital flight data recorder - which
could provide further details about what went wrong.

PTI