UPS Cargo Plane Crash In Alabama Kills Two
A large UPS cargo plane has crashed on approach to an airport in Birmingham, Alabama, killing the pilot and co-pilot.
The pre-dawn crash caused at least two explosions, throwing debris across the area.
The plane caught fire, sending a column of thick smoke into the sky as fire trucks and other emergency vehicles rushed to the scene.
Birmingham Fire Chief Ivor Brooks said the pilot and the co-pilot, the only two people aboard the aircraft, were killed. He said both were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.
No other casualties have been reported.
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 Shanda Fanning had been flying since she was a teenager.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the A300 plane - en route from Louisville, Kentucky, to Birmingham - crashed on approach to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport at around 5am local time.
The plane went down in an open field that is just outside the perimeter fence of the airport.
Nearby, grass was blackened near the bottom of a hill, and a piece of the fuselage and an engine were visible on the hill's crest and smoke could be seen rising from the other side.
The crash had not affected airport operations, though it did appear to topple a tree and a utility pole. The top was broken out of the tree and there were pieces of a utility pole and limbs in the road.
Birmingham Mayor William Bell said: "The plane is in several sections.
"There were two to three small explosions, but we think that was related to the aviation fuel."
The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to investigate the crash.
The AP news agency said conditions in the area were rainy with low clouds in the early morning.
Sharon Wilson, who lives near the airport, said she was in bed before dawn when she heard what sounded like engines sputtering as the plane went over her house.
"It sounded like an airplane had given out of fuel. We thought it was trying to make it to the airport. But a few minutes later we heard a loud `boom,"' she said.
Another resident, Jerome Sanders, lives directly across from the runway. He said he heard a plane just before dawn and could see flames seconds before it crashed.
"It was on fire before it hit," Mr Sanders said.
Atlanta-based UPS said in a statement that "as we work through this difficult situation, we ask for your patience, and that you keep those involved in your thoughts and prayers".
Previously, a UPS cargo plane crashed on September 3, 2010, in the United Arab Emirates, just outside Dubai.
Both pilots were killed. Authorities there blamed the crash on its load of between 80,000 to 90,000 lithium batteries, which are sensitive to temperature.
Investigators found that a fire on board likely began in the cargo containing the batteries.
Airbus, which quit building the A300 in 2007, said in a news release the plane that crashed in Alabama was built in 2003 and had logged about 11,000 flight hours over 6,800 flights.
The A300, which began flying in 1972, was Airbus' first plane. American Airlines - the last US passenger airline to have flown the model - retired its last A300 in 2009.