Bret Fanning, of Lynchburg, husband of pilot Shanda Fanning, who was killed in a United Parcel Service cargo plane crash last Aug. 14, is seeking $2 million in a federal lawsuit filed against Honeywell Airspace, the company that makes equipment used in the aircraft.
Fanning was the first officer aboard UPS Flight 1354 when it crashed while attempting to land before dawn at Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport.
The twin-engine jet clipped trees and slammed into a hill short of the runway. The flight originated in Louisville, Ky.
The lawsuit filed in Nashville says a faulty Honeywell Aerospace ground warning system didn’t go off in time to alert the pilots.
Honeywell denies its product caused the crash which also took the life of the pilot, Capt. Cerea Beal Jr., 58, of Matthews, N.C.
The lawsuit was first reported by The Lebanon (Tenn.) Democrat.
A native of Bedford County, Shanda was the daughter of Eph “Sonny” and Wilma Carney.
She was a 1994 graduate of Shelbyville Central High and then graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in 1999. She flew her first solo at age 16, later piloted a Beech 400 for Triton Boats where she piloted President George W. Bush, then went on to fly for Fraction Air, Continental Airways and joined UPS in 2006.
According to a story filed after the crash by The Associated Press, investigators said a flight recorder revealed that the pilots received warnings about their rate of descent seconds before impact.
National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt told reporters during a briefing that a recorder captured the first of two audible warnings in the cockpit 16 seconds before the sound of an impact, either with trees or the ground.
The warnings indicated the A300 cargo plane was descending at a rate outside normal parameters given its altitude, Sumwalt said, but investigators haven’t made any determination on the actual cause of the crash into an Alabama hillside.
The aircraft went down less than a mile from the end of Runway 18 at Birmingham’s airport before dawn.
Landing on the runway can be tricky for pilots, an expert said, particularly those flying big jets like the twin-engine UPS cargo carrier. Sumwalt said the plane was being flown by Capt. Beal, who had 8,600 hours of flight experience, including 3,200 hours in an A300, but investigators don’t know whether Beal or Fanning had ever before landed on Runway 18.
Located near the southern tip of the Appalachian foothills, Birmingham’s airport is located in a low spot between Red Mountain to the south and hills that lie at the northern end of Runway 18, which is 7,000 feet long. The main runway is 12,000 feet long and runs east and west, meaning pilots don’t have to negotiate the rough terrain.
The NTSB said the longer runway was closed for maintenance work on its lights early Wednesday, leaving the shorter runway as the only path to the ground. Runway 18 is an approved runway with a valid approach, Aimer said.
“It is definitely legal, but it I had a choice I’d use another runway first,” he said.
At the time, a key task for investigators was determining why the UPS jet was low enough to hit trees. The impact sheared off pieces of the aircraft and sent them crashing onto two homes along with large pieces of limbs.