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B744, en route, Persian Gulf, 2010 (AW FIRE)

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On 3 September 2010 a Boeing 747-400F enroute from Dubai International Airport to Cologne, Germany declared an emergency and requested a return to Dubai after indication of a fire on the main cargo deck, and the aircraft crashed 9nm south of DXB.
Event Details
When September 2010
Event Type AW, FIRE
Day/Night Day
Flight Conditions VMC
Flight Details
Aircraft BOEING 747-400 (international, winglets)
Operator UPS Airlines
Domicile United States
Type of Flight Public Transport (Cargo)
Origin Dubai International Airport
Intended Destination Cologne/Bonn Airport
Flight Phase Cruise
Location En-Route
Origin Dubai International Airport
Destination Cologne/Bonn Airport
Tag(s) Post Crash Fire
Dangerous Goods
Fire-Cargo origin
Fire-Underfloor origin
Damage or injury Yes
Aircraft damage Hull loss
Injuries Most or all occupants
Fatalities Most or all occupants
Safety Recommendation(s)
Group(s) Aircraft Airworthiness
Investigation Type
Type Independent


On 3 September 2010 a Boeing 747-400F departed Dubai International Airport on a scheduled cargo flight to Cologne, Germany. 22 minutes into the flight, level at 32,000 ft9,753.6 m, and in day VMC, the flight crew advised Bahrain ATC that the fire warning systems for the cargo compartments indicated an onboard main deck fire. The crew declared an emergency and requested a return to Dubai as soon as possible. The crew further informed Bahrain that there was smoke in the cockpit and that the ability to view the primary flight instruments and radio frequency selection controls had become degraded. Due to the obscured visibility in the cockpit, the crew stayed on the Bahrain frequency for the duration of the return flight back to Dubai. This meant that, as the aircraft headed back east into the Emirates FIR, communications with the aircraft depended on relay through other aircraft.

During the emergency descent, the Captain declared a lack of oxygen supply and, after a discussion with the F/O about the need for oxygen, passed control of the aircraft to the F/O as PF and left his seat (presumably to get the portable oxygen located in the supernumerary position). From this point on, there was no further CVR information indicating any further interaction from the Captain for the remainder of the flight.

As the aircraft approached runway 12 left at Dubai, still in VMC but now at night, the aircraft overflew the northern boundary of the aerodrome at 4500 ft and at a speed of 340 kts629.68 km/h
174.76 m/s
. The aircraft was advised of the availability of Sharjah airport 10nm to the north (to the aircraft's left). The PF asked for a vector to Sharjah and was given 095 degrees, which he acknowledged, but selected 195 degrees on the MSP. The aircraft reduced speed, and entered a shallow descending right turn to the south of Dubai Airport before radar contact was lost. The aircraft crashed 9nm south of DXB on a military installation.


This accident investigation is being conducted by the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) Air Accident Investigation Department of the UAE in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Annex 13. The GCAA investigation team includes an Accredited Representative and Technical Advisors from the United States, as State of Manufacture and Design, State of Operator, and State of Registry. The Accredited Representative and advisor from the NTSB were joined by technically qualified advisors from the aircraft manufacturer, the FAA, the operator (UPS Airlines), and the labour union representing the pilots.  

The following diagram shows the sequence of events from the first signs of fire:

sequence of events
diagram showing the sequence of events on UPS 006. The diagram is not to scale.

The investigation and analysis is ongoing but available data indicates the approximate location of the onboard fire:

location of onboard fire
location of onboard fire based on available data - taken from the Preliminary Report

FAA Safety Alert For Operators

On 8 October 2010, the FAA issued SAFO 10017: Risks in Transporting Lithium Batteries in Cargo by Aircraft which contained the following statement:

"We note as well that United Parcel Service Flight 006 crashed in the United Arab Emirates on September 3, 2010. Investigation of the crash is still underway, and the cause of the crash has not been determined. We are aware, however, that the plane’s cargo did include large quantities of lithium batteries and believe it prudent to advise operators of that fact."

Safety Recommendation

The GCAA made the following Safety Recommendations in the Preliminary Report:

Safety Recommendation 1 (SR20/10):

  • Request customers to identify bulk shipments of currently excepted lithium batteries by information on airway bills and other documents provided by shippers offering shipments of lithium batteries.

Safety Recommendation 2 (SR 21/10):

  • Where feasible and appropriate, stow bulk shipments of lithium batteries in Class C cargo compartments or in locations where alternative fire suppression is available.

Safety Recommendation 3 (SR 22/10):

  • Evaluate the training, stowage, and communication protocols in your operation with respect to the transportation of lithium batteries in the event of an unrelated fire.

Safety Recommendation 4 (SR 23/10):

  • Pay special attention to ensuring careful handling and compliance with existing regulations covering the air transportation of Class 9 hazardous materials, including lithium batteries.

In view of this, all involved would have to be advised to:

  • Educate all those who carry out activities related to Class 9 hazardous materials, including lithium batteries on the best practice to identify Lithium Batteries in particular in"items/shipments carried by passengers, in Cargo, in Courier and Mail modes" in/to/via UAE so that they are conversant with these new recommendations.
  • Perform a risk assessment of their own practices for transporting lithium batteries.

Preliminary Report

The Preliminary Report was published by the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on 3 April 2011.

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