No problem with controls in deadly UPS crash at Alabama airport, investigators say

The National Transportation Safety Board and FBI scour the field on Friday, Aug. 16, north of the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport where UPS flight 1354 crashed. Frank Couch / AP

Federal investigators said Saturday they have not discovered any issues with the controls in the large UPS cargo jet that crashed Wednesday while attempting to land in Alabama, killing the pilot and co-pilot. 

National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said that the cockpit controls in the A300 aircraft seemed to be functional before the fiery crash, matching the positions of the airplane’s flaps and rudders, according to The Associated Press. 

Sumwalt’s remarks followed a news conference Saturday at Birmingham’s airport, where federal investigators are still combing over the charred wreckage of the twin-engine Airbus A306.

Investigators have said they did not find any issues with the plane’s engines, but that a cockpit warning went off just seconds before the deadly crash, according to the AP. The alarm, known as a sink rate warning, denoted that the plane was descending at a rate faster than usual. 

Sumwalt told reporters that the airplane’s data recorder suggested the autopilot was engaged up until the final second before the end of the recording, but he was careful to note that was not unusual, according to the AP. 

Flight 1354 crashed shortly after 6 a.m. Wednesday at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The aircraft from Louisville, Ky., crashed while making an approach to the airport, local just a few miles east of the city's downtown area, according to UPS. 

The airplane went down roughly 900 yards from the end of the airport’s 7,000-foot runway in an open field, according to WVTM. Police said no residents were affected by the crash. 

"This incident is very unfortunate, and our thoughts and prayers are with those involved," UPS Airlines President Mitch Nichols said in a statement. "We place the utmost value on the safety of our employees, our customers, and the public. We will immediately engage with the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation, and we will work exhaustively on response efforts." 

UPS has identified the victims of the fiery crash as Capt. Cerea Beal, Jr., 58, of Matthews, N.C.; and First Officer Shanda Fanning, 37, of Lynchburg, Tenn., according to the AP.

Matthew DeLuca and Becky Bratu of NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.