Crash pilot 'may have been trying to avoid disaster'

Aircraft could have been deliberately steered over military base after it ran into problems, expert suggests.

DUBAI - SEPTEMBER 4,2010 - Wreckage inside the camp where the Parcel service aircraft crashed in Dubai. ( Paulo Vecina/The National )
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DUBAI // The pilot of the cargo plane that crashed into a military base last night may have been trying to land in the base to avoid causing a "disaster on the ground", one expert suggested today, The pilot and co-pilot of the aircraft both died in the crash. No one else was injured. Dr Theodore Karasik, the director of research and development at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, speculated that crashing in the base was deliberate to avoid hitting other sites nearby. Smoke and fire reported in the cockpit could have been caused by a number of factors, such as faulty wiring, lack of maintenance or a checklist problem, he said. Phil Smith, a member at RAES Flight Operations Group and a retired pilot who specialises in aircraft technical issues, agreedthat the cockpit fire indicated an electrical problem.

Extinguishes on board would have not been enough to handle the fire because of the huge amount of power of the plane, he said Investigators have so far only found the body of one of two pilots who were on board the plane when it crashed inside the military camp in Dubai. The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has begun investigating the crash of United Parcel Service (UPS) Flight 6, at around 7.45pm, but officials said it is too early to speculate about a cause.

Saif al Suwaidi, the GCAA director general, said today investigators have also located one of the plane's black boxes, containing voice recordings, among the wreckage of the 747-400. "We have started the investigation and have managed to retrieve one of the bodies," he said. "The other has still not been retrieved." The plane crashed inside the Nad al Sheba Military Camp shortly after taking off from Dubai International Airport en route to Cologne, Germany.

The base was closed to outsiders today and the wreckage could not be seen from the exterior. Mr al Suwaidi said there was only slight damage"to some empty buildings" on the base. GCAA officials are gathering eyewitness statements from areas near to the crash site, which is close to the Emirates Road and Al Ain Road intersection, opposite Silicon Oasis. Included among the cargo plane's load were "children's toys and computer accessories", Mr al Suwaidi said.

The US National Transportation Safety Board also confirmed its involvement in the investigation, announcing that it will dispatch a team to the UAE, including representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing. UPS has also dispatched investigators to assist in the enquiry, the company confirmed. Scott Davis, the chairman of chief executive of UPS, said: "This is a terrible tragedy and all of us at UPS extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the victims. We are doing our best to learn exactly what happened."