National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials say they feel "cautiously optimistic" they will soon be able to access and download data from the black boxes of a UPS cargo plane that crashed Wednesday morning.
Robert Sumwalt with the NTSB says the investigative team began their day at 8 a.m. and he feels positive about the progress made by the team.
"We are just in the very beginning stages of the investigation. There's a lot going on and a lot to be done. I think we're right where we should be in the investiagion," Sumwalt said.
Flight 1354 crashed just a few hundred yards shy of runway 18 at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport around 5 a.m. Wednesday.
The crash killed the only two people on board, the plane's pilot and co-pilot. One of the pilots has been identified by family members as Shanda Fanning, who lived in Lynchburg, Tenn., according to WAVE.
A relative has identified the other pilot as Cerea Beal Junior, WAVE reported.
Sumwalt says the recorders, or "black boxes," were recovered around 11 a.m. after a three hour search. Sumwalt says they were covered in hardened plastic, metal and cargo. Officials feared that the recorders may have been damaged because they were located in an area of the plane that caught fire and smoldered for hours Wednesday.
As FOX6 News reports on this story, those recorders are being flown to Washington, D.C. where a NTSB official will escort them to the board's headquarters.
Sumwalt says that technicians will work late Thursday night to open the recorders. He says it may take some time because of their condition and the fact that they are made to withstand the abuse of a crash.
Once opened, technicians will download whatever data is available on the recorders. Sumwalt says the NTSB should know by Friday if the data is "good" and can be used to further the investigation.
In the meantime, Sumwalt says the investigative team has been busy with several other aspects. Hoover Police have lent their helicopter to allow the team to document the crash site from the air. The system and structures team has also been able to document the site from the ground, including the positions of the flight controls on the tail surface of the aircraft.
Sumwalt says the power plants group's preliminary report indicates no evidence of an "uncontained engine failure" and no evidence of a pre-impact fire. They did find foreign debris in the engines of the plane, including dirt.
Sumwalt stressed that there is no reason to currently believe that the debris was in the engines before the impact. He says the debris is indicative of a plane striking trees and striking dirt.
Sumwalt also answered some questions about runway 18, which is where the UPS plane attempted to land. He confirmed that the usual runway used by larger planed, runway 624, was closed Wednesday morning for maintenance. Sumwalt says that there is currently no indication that there was a lighting failure on runway 18, which could have contributed to the crash. He says it is one factor investigators will look into.
NTSB investigators are also researching the crew and the maintenance history of the aircraft. They have requested extensive crew-related documents like training and flight records. Friday, a portion of the investigative team will be in Louisville, Ky. to review the maintenance history.
The NTSB is also interviewing the air traffic controllers who were on duty when the UPS plane crashed Wednesday and reviewing data that they have about the flight and weather conditions.
Sumwalt says that once the NTSB has completed their investigation, the wreckage of the plane will be turned over to UPS. He says such debris is typically store an an aircraft salvage yard.
FOX6 News will continue to follow the NTSB's investigation and you may read the latest information at MyFoxAl.com and on Twitter @myfoxal. If you would like to follow the NTSB directly, they post updates on Twitter @NTSB and at ntsb.gov.
Copyright 2013 WBRC. All rights reserved.
1720 Valley View Drive