Aircraft Dispatchers Learn From Past Flight Mistake

There are several employment fields where there is little to no margin for error. However, when an error does occur, like the crash of UPS Flight 1354, an aircraft dispatcher in the field or in training must learn from these past mistakes in order to avoid future reoccurrences. By regulation, a flight must be in contact with both the traffic control and company flight dispatchers on the ground, whether overseas or in domestic airspace.

At Sheffield School of Aeronautics in Florida, aircraft dispatchers in training are encouraged to study the history of flight and all flight accidents, in order to avoid making the same mistake.

UPS Flight 1354 crashed over Birmingham, AL in the fall of 2013.

Aircraft: Airbus A300-600

Accident: Crashed during a localizer non-precision approach to runway 18 at Birmingham’s Shuttlesworth International Airport.

Casualties: Captain and First Officer

NTSB Questions:

  • How did a qualified, experienced flight crew flew a mechanically sound airplane into the ground?

UPS Flight Accident – Humans

  • Both pilots were fit for duty.
  • The first officer may have not received adequate rest.
  • Failed to communicate with one another efficiently

UPS Flight Accident – Machine

  1. The crew realized that the longer, ILS equipped runway was unavailable; leading them to take a no precision approach to a shorter runway.
    • The runway available localizer (a ground based antenna to laterally fly to the runway)
  2. To descend the approach, the crew was going to use the Flight Management Computer – a computer generated glide slope
  3. Once they received vectors for the approach, the *flight crew has to sequence the FMC (tell the computer that they are manually flying the approach)
  4. First officer forgot to clear the flight plan discontinuity in the FMC.
  5. In failing to sequence the FMC, the computer was not programmed properly for the approach
  6. The captain voiced a concern that he was high on the approach and that the aircraft control had left him high. However, an extra 200-foot difference was ruled as a manageable approach by NTSB.
  7. The captain proceeded to use the vertical speed mode once he realized he was not going to capture the slope; however, he did not communicate it with the first officer.

UPS Flight Accident – Weather

  1. Crew expected to break out of the clouds at 1000 feet from the ground
  2. When they reach 1000 feet, they hadn’t broken out yet
  3. Actual speed was 1500 ft. /min; should have been descending at 700 to 800 ft. /min.
  4. The first captain failed to voice that the captain was descending twice as fast as their normal descent rate.


Available Alerting Clues:

Multiple clues were available to them, to warn that the approach was not set up properly

  • PFD
  • Navigational Display
  • VDI (vertical deviation indicator) showed they were too low
  • ATD (along Track Distance) that should have been showing them to the final approach fix. However, the ATD still showed Birmingham – their original navigation plan.
  • Lateral Offset
  • Flight Mode Enunciator gave conflicting information. The armed blue light on the flight mode enunciator (tells them what the status of the automation is) illuminated and showed that the glide slope was ready. When in reality, they were never going to capture the glide slope.

What can you learn?

  • As a crew, if you arrive at the final approach fix and you do not have the approach that you had previously briefed, you need to execute a go-around.
  • If you are on the approach and, at any point in time the approach becomes unstable, you need to execute a go-around.

Furthermore, professional pilots are not the only targeted audience. Pilots have flight dispatchers and other flight following services that help the pilots with weather, performance, and planning activity. Although the pilot must be able to react to any changes during the course of the flight, aircraft dispatchers supply the flight crew with important flight affecting information, which they must take into account.

Sheffield agrees that in order to improve future flights and teach new or existing aircraft dispatchers, the National Transportation Safety Board must release more aviation video reports. This UPS flight crash is the first NTSB aviation report released for training purposes. The NTSB is looking to release more videos on major aircraft accidents, so that commercial and professional aircraft dispatchers, pilots, and control center dispatchers may learn from past mistakes. Learn from the past and become an aircraft dispatcher with the help of South Florida’s top aeronautics school!

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