Probe as two die in US plane crash
on 15/08/2013 08:27:28
A probe is under way after a UPS cargo plane crashed into a field near a US airport, killing two pilots and scattering wreckage over a rural area.
People living near the airfield in Birmingham, Alabama, reported seeing flames coming from the massive A300 jet that was coming in at treetop level and hearing its engines struggle in the final moments before impact.
"It was on fire before it hit," said Jerome Sanders, who lives directly across from the runway.
The plane, which had departed from Louisville, Kentucky, went down about half a mile from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport. It broke into several pieces and caught fire. The pilot and co-pilot were the only people aboard.
Toni Herrera-Bast, a spokeswoman for the city's airport authority, said the crash did not affect airport operations, but knocked down power lines and appeared to topple at least one tree and utility pole.
The National Transportation Safety Board has sent a team of investigators to the scene.
A preliminary investigation indicated the pilots did not make any distress calls, board member Robert L Sumwalt said.
Investigators are waiting to retrieve the cockpit-voice and flight-data recorders because the tail of the aircraft was still smouldering, he said.
UPS spokesman Jeff Wafford said the jet was carrying a variety of cargo.
The pilots' names were not immediately released but a man who identified himself as a family member said one of the pilots was Shanda Fanning, a woman in her mid-30s from Tennessee.
Wes Fanning, who said he was the woman's brother-in-law, said Ms Fanning had been flying since she was a teenager.
He said officials had contacted her mother and that UPS representatives were with the family.
Chunks of riveted metal that appeared to be from the plane landed in the yard of Cornelius and Barbara Benson, who live near the crash site.
Ms Benson said she was awakened by a tremendous boom and "saw a big red flash" through her bedroom window.
As day broke, the two were able to see that the tops of trees around their property had been knocked down and they were missing a piece of their back deck.
Mr Benson said planes routinely fly so low over his house that a few years ago the airport authority sent crews to trim treetops.
The planes come close enough that Mrs Benson has sometimes been able to "to wave at the captains as they pass".
The plane was built in 2003 and had logged about 11,000 flight hours over 6,800 flights, Airbus said in a news release.
The A300, Airbus' first plane, began flying in 1972. Airbus stopped building them in 2007 after making a total of 816 A300 and A310s. The model was retired from US passenger service in 2009.