NTSB removes UPS from crash inquiry

The National Transportation Safety Board has removed UPS Airlines and its pilots union from the investigation of the cargo carrier’s August 2013 plane crash in Birmingham.

The NTSB said UPS and the Independent Pilots Association took actions that were “prejudicial to the investigation by publicly commenting on and providing their own analysis of the investigation prior to the NTSB’s public meeting to determine the probable cause of the accident.”

The pilots union issued a press release earlier this month calling for an end to a “carve-out” for all-cargo operators from pilot rest rules, mentioning the August 2013 crash and the role of fatigue. The NTSB said it was not consulted before the union issued the press release, nor before UPS posted comments in response with its own analysis.

That violated terms of an agreement the company and union signed at the start of the investigation, according to the NTSB. The board added that information from one party could reflect a bias, which can make others less willing to engage in the process and undercut the investigation.

“It doesn’t matter who started it,” said acting NTSB chairman Christopher Hart in a written statement. “Neither action is acceptable.”

The pilots union declined to comment on the NTSB’s press release.

UPS issued a statement Monday saying it was “surprised and disappointed” to learn of the NTSB’s decision, adding that it had limited its discussion to facts released by the investigation.

“We believe we have been unfairly reprimanded for attempting to set the facts straight and defending our brand,” UPS Airlines spokesman Mike Mangeot said in a written statement.