Wreckage of the UPS cargo plane which crashed near the Al Ain road. Authorities say there was a possibility that a fire broke out in the cockpit of the aircraft. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: An "uncontrollable" fire broke out in the cockpit of the ill-fated United Parcel Services (UPS) plane while it was still in Bahraini airspace, a preliminary report issued by the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) about Friday's air crash has revealed.

A United Parcel Services cargo plane crashed into the Nad Al Sheba military camp at 7.43pm on Friday. Eyewitnesses said the plane burst into a fireball before crashing.

In pictures: Cargo plane crashes in Dubai

Remains of both pilots have now been found, and their family members are reported to be on their way to Dubai.

Saif Al Suwaidi, the director-general of the GCAA, had speculated earlier about the possibility of a fire in the cockpit.

The report confirms there was a fire, as communicated to UAE Air Traffic Centre  by Bahrain's air traffic control (ATC). The UPS Boeing 747-400 departed from Dubai International Airport at 6.53pm headed for Cologne/Bonn airport in Germany.

At 7.15pm, ATC in Bahrain informed UAE ATC that the aircraft was returning to Dubai airport because the pilots were not able to maintain altitude or control a fire that had broken out in the cockpit.

UAE ATC issued a clearance for landing when the aircraft was approximately 40 kilometres out. The clearance was issued for both Dubai International Airport and Sharjah International Airport, Al Suwaidi previously told Gulf News.

According to the report, the aircraft came in too high to land, passed over the runway and made a right turn.

UAE ATC told the pilots that all runways had been cleared and were available, but the aircraft was seen travelling southwest and losing altitude. At 7.42pm, radar contact was lost.

The B744 subsequently crashed at the Nad Al Sheba military camp between Emirates Road and Al Ain Road, the report added.

The GCAA immediately dispatched an investigation team, which is still on site collecting and analysing evidence.

The team is liaising with the aircraft manufacturer, technical specialists and international accident investigation bodies which have been invited to assist under the provisions of International Civil Aviation Organisation Annex 13.

The investigation team recovered the cockpit voice recorder approximately six hours after the accident and is still trying to locate the digital flight data recorder.

Crew identified

According to US news reports, the pilots of the UPS plane that crashed have been identified as Captain Doug Lampe, 48, of Kentucky, and First Officer Matthew Bell, 38, of Florida. Lampe joined UPS in 1995, and Bell in 2006. Both pilots flew out of Anchorage, Alaska.

According to Kentucky-based courier-journal.com, Lampe was a member of Southeast Christian Church, "where he was known as a family man, a man who served others".

Lampe's wife, Cindy Lampe, declined to comment.

The journal cited UPS as saying in a statement that the plane was up to date on its maintenance and had just completed a major inspection in June 2010.

UPS said the plane was three years old and had flown 9,977 hours, completing 1,764 takeoffs and landings. It was one of 12 long-range 747s owned by the company.