U.S. government investigators were hoping on Friday that cockpit voice and flight data recorders pulled from the wreckage of a UPS cargo jet would help pinpoint the cause of the fiery crash that killed its pilot and co-pilot.
The United Parcel Service plane’s “black box” flight recorders arrived at the headquarters of the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington on Thursday night, after they were pulled hours earlier from a heap of melted plastic and debris at the crash site outside Birmingham, Alabama’s international airport.
NTSB spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said the agency expected to learn by sometime early Friday whether the recorders contained good data, potentially holding the key to the predawn crash on Wednesday.
“This morning they’re going to start to download them,” Nantel said. “They’ll start to see what we can do for a readout.”
The NTSB will hold a briefing in Birmingham later on Friday.
Preliminary results from the agency’s investigation, which is still in its earliest stages, have shown no evidence of engine fire, and the pilots did not issue a distress call.
The Airbus A300 jet, operated by UPS, was approaching the runway at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth airport when it clipped the trees in a residential area adjacent to the airport.
The plane crashed well short of the runway, into an embankment in a grassy field.
UPS identified the two crew members aboard as 58-year-old Cerea Beal Jr., a resident of Matthews, North Carolina, and Shanda Fanning, 37, of Lynchburg, Tennessee.
Beal, the captain, had been with UPS since 1990 and also served for more than six years in the U.S. Marine Corps as a heavy lift helicopter operator.