A large UPS cargo plane crashed and burst into flames early yesterday on approach to the airport in Birmingham, Alabama, killing the pilot and co-pilot in the latest in a series of aviation accidents in the US this year.
“I can confirm they were killed in the crash,” Birmingham Mayor William Bell said of the pilot and co-pilot, who were not identified immediately. He added that there were no other casualties reported.
United Parcel Service Inc flight 1354, en route from Louisville, Kentucky, to Birmingham, crashed at about 5am CDT (1000 GMT), according to the FAA. The plane was identified as an Airbus A300.
A National Transportation Safety Board response team from Washington was expected to be on the scene in Birmingham by midday.
No distress calls were made to the airport tower, according to April Odom, a spokeswoman for Bell.
“It sounded like a transformer that blew up,” said Odell Rich, a fruit vendor who said he witnessed the crash.
“There was a big explosion that lit up the sky. It jarred the earth. It looked to me like it hit a power line and plowed into the ground,” he said.
A fire erupted after the crash in the sparsely populated area and was quickly brought under control, Bell said.
“It was quite a large fire and there were two to three explosions after the plane caught fire, after the crash itself,” Bell said.
Pedro Torres, who lives about two blocks from the crash site, saw “a big flash” from the window of his home when the plane went down.
“My house shuddered like an earthquake. I saw a big airplane on the ground, scattered everywhere with lots of smoke,” he said.
A field of debris could be seen around the crash site in an area of Birmingham where many homes have been bulldozed to make way for an airport expansion.
“This incident is very unfortunate, and our thoughts and prayers are with those involved,” said Mitch Nichols, president of UPS Airlines. “We place the utmost value on the safety of our employees, our customers and the public.” UPS is the world’s largest package-delivery service.
Sandy McDaniel, 42, was on her shift at a nearby service station when she heard the blast.
“Firemen were in here getting coffee,” McDaniel said. “They jumped and said, ‘Was that a plane crash?’ and then it came on the radio. They ran out.”
The Airbus A300 is a wide-body jet widely used as a regional freighter by UPS, FedEx Corp and others.
Airbus said it will provide technical assistance to accident investigators. It said the aircraft involved was delivered to UPS from its production line in 2003, and had accumulated about 11,000 flight hours over about 6,800 flights.
The model has been involved in about 10 crashes, the latest occurring last November, when the front landing gear on DHL-owned jet collapsed on landing in Bratislava, Slovakia. The model has been in service since 1974.
The Birmingham crash is the latest in a string of air accidents in the US in recent months.
In July, an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 crashed while landing in San Francisco, killing three people and injuring more than 180.
Also last month, the front landing gear of a Southwest Airlines Co Boeing 737 jet collapsed on touchdown at New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, injuring eight.
In May, a US Airways flight made a belly landing at Newark International Airport in New Jersey after its landing gear failed to deploy. No one was injured.
Boeing has struggled with mechanical problem on its new 787 Dreamliner aircraft. All of the aircraft were grounded for three months earlier this year after battery problems caused a fire in a parked Japan Airlines plane in Boston.
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