A UPS cargo plane crashed on approach to the airport in Birmingham early Wednesday, killing the two pilots.
It was the second deadly plane crash for the Sandy Springs-based shipping giant in four years.
The Airbus A300-600F jet coming from Louisville crashed as it came in for a landing at Birmingham International Airport at 5:11 a.m Wednesday. There was no distress call from the pilots, according to the National Transportation Safety Board’s initial findings.
“The crash of UPS Flight 1354 occurred about one-half mile north of Runway 18,” Kathleen Bergen, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Investigators are expected to probe a number of possible causes, such as mechanical issues, pilot fatigue, or whether cargo may have contributed to the crash. The NTSB is sending a representative to UPS Airlines’ headquarters in Louisville to examine training records and maintenance records.
In a briefing late Wednesday afternoon, NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt said that the tail section of the plane was still smoldering, preventing investigators from getting the black boxes, including the flight data recorder and cockpit recorder.
“We are optimistic we will be able to get there quickly and get those recorders,” Sumwalt said.
Birmingham Mayor William Bell said the plane crashed in an area that used to be a neighborhood and is now owned by the airport. The homes there were torn down.
Barbara Benson, who has lived near the area for 25 years, said pieces of the plane were scattered on her lawn.
“I woke up to a big ball of fire,” she said.
Sharon Wilson was getting ready to go the gym when she heard the plane come over the house.
“We could tell the plane was too low,” she said.
She heard a loud boom, but thought it was from the nearby rock quarry.
“It terrified us,” Wilson said.
According to the flight-tracking website, flightaware.com, the plane landed at the UPS hub in Louisville around midnight after a flight from Acapulco, Mexico, and took off again at 5:04 a.m. for the 45-minute flight to Birmingham.
United Parcel Service is the second biggest company in Georgia and the world’s largest package delivery company.
The company has a fleet of more than 300 airplanes, including the Airbus A300. The A300 is described as a short- to medium-range widebody jet airliner.
In a statement, Airbus said the company “regrets to confirm” the crash.
The aircraft involved in the accident was delivered to UPS from the production line in 2003, Airbus said.
The aircraft had accumulated approximately 11,000 flight hours in some 6,800 flights. It was powered by Pratt & Whitney engines, the company said.
A team of specialists from Airbus is being dispatched to Alabama.
“The concerns and sympathies of the Airbus employees go out to the families, friends and loved ones affected by the accident of Flight 1354,” the statement concluded.
The names of the deceased pilots have not been released.
The Birmingham crash comes after a fatal incident in Dubai in 2010 in which a UPS Boeing 747 crashed on take-off, killing the two pilots. A government investigation determined that lithium-ion batteries led to a fire, which resulted in the crash.
Staff writer Mike Morris contributed to this report.