DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, (AP) – The UPS cargo plane that crashed in Dubai shortly after takeoff Friday had smoke in the cockpit and was struggling to maintain altitude before the accident, Emirati investigators said Sunday.
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 accident occurred. Both crew members were killed in the crash.
Just over 20 minutes into the flight, air traffic controllers in Dubai received word from 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 and requested the airport for landing,” the GCAA said.
The plane was too high on approach, authorities said. It passed over the airport before making a right turn.
Crew onboard were told that all runways had been cleared for landing, but the plane “rapidly lost altitude” as it headed southwest, according to the report.
The plane — which has a wingspan of 212 feet (64.6 meters) and length of 232 feet (70.7 meters) — went down at 7:42 p.m. in an unpopulated area between two major highways, about 50 minutes after takeoff.
Flight 6 was en route to the UPS hub in Cologne, Germany.
Emirati investigators were sifting through the wreckage Sunday looking for clues into the cause of the crash, the GCAA said.
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.
The GCAA said a U.S. National Transportation Safety Board team is scheduled to arrive Sunday to help with the probe.
UPS, the Atlanta-based company formally known as United Parcel Service Inc., has also dispatched an investigation team to the scene.
UPS has identified the crew members killed as Captain Doug Lampe of Louisville, Ky., 48, and First Officer Matthew Bell, 38, of Sanford, Fla. Lampe has been with UPS since 1995. Bell has been with the company since 2006. Both flew out of UPS’s Anchorage, Alaska, pilot base.
The shipping company, the world’s largest, said the aircraft was three years old, was up to date on all maintenance and underwent an inspection in June.