A Moore County woman was one of two pilots reported dead after a fiery plane crash early Wednesday morning just outside the Birmingham, Ala., airport.
The plane was a large UPS jumbo cargo plane en route from Louisville, Ky.
UPS has not released the names of the two pilots, but a family member confirmed to The Moore County News that one of the pilots was Shanda Carney Fanning, 37, of Lynchburg. She was married to Bret Fanning, an employee at Jack Daniel Distillery.
The pilot and co-pilot were killed when their plane crashed while approaching Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. The plane crashed near a field, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said in an email.
The National Transportation Safety Board tweeted that it was “launching Go-Team to Alabama UPS plane crash.” The first investigator was expected to reach the area around 10 a.m.
The pilot and co-pilot were the only people aboard the plane, company spokesman Jeff Wafford said. The crash happened at about 6 a.m., Bergen said.
A UPS spokesman confirmed that the plane was a UPS A-300 Airbus, tail number N155UP, with two crew members aboard. The flight originated in Louisville and crashed upon its approach to the airport in east Birmingham.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the crew,” the spokesman said.
Bergen told The Associated Press that the plane crashed before dawn. Debris was still smoldering and the nose of the plane was detached from the body.
The plane crashed in an isolated field outside the airport’s perimeter fence and a white plume of smoke was seen rising from the site. Teams of emergency crews responded to the crash. The scene is about a half-mile north of Runway 18 where weather conditions were rainy with low clouds.
Sharon Wilson, who lives near the airport, said she was in bed before dawn when an airplane went over her house at what sounded like treetop level.
The engines were making an odd sound like sputtering, she said.
“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.
At 7 a.m. Wednesday, conditions in the area were rainy with low clouds. Smoke was still rising from the scene at 7:47 a.m. There was a piece of the plane’s white fuselage near a blackened area on the ground.
The plane appears to have struck a massive hardwood tree north of the runway. The top was broken out of the tree and there were pieces of a utility pole and limbs in the road. Nearby, grass was blackened near the bottom of a hill. A piece of the fuselage and an engine are visible on the crest of the hill. White smoke was pouring from the other side of the hill.
“As we work through this difficult situation, we ask for your patience, and that you keep those involved in your thoughts and prayers,” Atlanta-based UPS said in a statement.
Previously, a UPS cargo plane crashed on Sept. 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.
Associated Press writers Becky Yonker in Louisville, Ky., and Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this report.