The pilot and co-pilot of a UPS cargo plane were killed in a crash near the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport on Wednesday morning, officials with the city of Birmingham confirmed.
Airport spokesperson Toni Herrera-Bast says a large cargo plane crashed around 5 a.m. in an open area near North Eastlake Boulevard. The crash scene is not within the airport fence. According to Gaynell Hendricks with the Birmingham Airport Authority, the plane broke in two.
UPS spokesperson Mike Mangeot has confirmed the plane to be Flight 1354, a UPS A-300 Airbus plane with tail number N155UP and two crew members aboard. The flight originated out of Louisville, Kentucky where UPS has a hub and crashed upon approach in Birmingham.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the crew," said Mangeot.
Mangeot adds there are typically two flights to Birmingham in a day, one during the daytime and one at night.
At the time of the crash, the visibility was 10 statue miles with few clouds reported at 1,100ft. The overcast deck was about 7,000ft. Some mist was being reported at the time, but licensed pilot and meteorologist J-P Dice points out this was not a scenario where the pilots needed to fly by instruments alone.
Birmingham Mayor William Bell says Birmingham Fire and Rescue crews have found the pilot and co-pilot deceased at the scene. Late Wednesday afternoon, Bell confirmed that the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot have been removed from the site.
One of the pilots has been identified by family members as Shanda Fanning from Lynchburg, TN, according to our Raycom sister station in Tennessee WSMV.
Fanning was part of the family that runs the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, according to a report from Kentucky TV station WAVE. The WAVE story said Jack Daniels employees were notified of the tragedy in a meeting on Wednesday.
The names of the pilots involved in the crash have not yet been released by officials.
So far there are no injures reported on the ground. Birmingham fire crews are still working to put out fires from the wreck. Small fires are still reportedly burning in the fuselage.
Chris Brookes, an assistant fire chief of operations with Birmingham Fire and Rescue, says he believes the damage to be spread over a distance of about a half mile.
Officials with Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport say the crash will not affect airline traffic. Operations are going as normal at the airport.
The NTSB is sending a team of investigators to Birmingham that is expected to arrive by 11 a.m. CST. In addition to the NTSB Go-Team, investigators from Atlanta will be arriving in Birmingham before noon on Wednesday.,
In a press conference held this morning outside the Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., an NTSB official said he is "optimistic" their crews will be able to recover the airplane's black box.
The NTSB plans to hold a press conference at 4 p.m. at the Sheraton Hotel in Birmingham. Fox6 News will carry that news conference live on air and online at www.FoxAlabamaLive.com.
Birmingham Mayor William Bell said there was no distress signal from the plane reported to the Birmingham airport tower. Mayor Bell added that debris from the plane may be scattered as far as a half-mile from the crash site.
City officials are asking anyone with debris in their yard or homes not to touch it or remove it, since it is needed evidence for the NTSB investigation. If you see any debris from the crash, please call 9-1-1.
Birmingham resident Sharon Wilson lives near the site of the crash. She says planes fly over her house everday. According to Wilson, the plane sounded lower than other planes and seemed to be sputtering like it was running out of fuel. She says they heard a loud crash and explosions after the plane passed overhead.
"We heard this loud boom, like, jump up out of your bed," said Wilson.
Another resident, Eddie Smith, lives near the crash site and said he was awoken by a loud "boom" around 5 a.m. About 5:15 a.m., he heard a second boom and saw a big ball of fire and smoke coming from the crash scene at the bottom of the hill where he lives.
Birmingham Fire and Rescue say the explosions at the site were caused by aerosol on board the plane mixing with jet fuel. 100 fire personnel and 35 units were needed to battle the ensuing fires.
Part of Tarrant Huffman Road, starting at the 1600 block, has been partially blocked off by police. There is no word on when it will reopen.
Alabama Power cut power to around 140 buildings in the area as a precaution, but the plane also brought down some power lines when it crashed. At last check, there were around 75 homes without power due to the plane crash. Power crews are on the scene working to restore electricity to the area.
UPS released this statement on Wednesday a little after 8 a.m. on Wednesday:
At 6:11 a.m. EST, UPS Flight 1354 from Louisville, KY to Birmingham, AL, an A300 with two crewmembers, was involved in an accident on approach into the Birmingham airport. At this time, we have not confirmed the status of our pilots.
"This incident is very unfortunate, and our thoughts and prayers are with those involved," said UPS Airlines President Mitch Nichols.
"We place the utmost value on the safety of our employees, our customers and the public. We will immediately engage with the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation, and we will work exhaustively on response efforts," continued Nichols.
UPS will release more facts about this accident as they become available, but the NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will be the primary source of information going forward.
The NTSB released the following statement on their website Wednesday morning:
The National Transportation Safety Board is launching a full Go-Team to investigate this morning's crash of a United Parcel Service Airbus A300. The crash occurred while on approach to Runway 18 at Birmingham International Airport in Birmingham, Ala.
Senior Aviation Investigator Dan Bower will serve as investigator-in-charge. NTSB Board Member Robert Sumwalt is accompanying the team and will serve as the principal spokesman during the on-scene phase of the investigation.
Public Affairs Specialists Eric Weiss and Keith Holloway will also be in Alabama to coordinate media related activities. Eric can be reached by mobile phone at 202-557-1350.
For the latest information related to the investigation and any press briefings, follow us on twitter (@ntsb) or via our website at www.ntsb.gov.
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