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UPS cargo plane crash: Flight recorders recovered

National Transportation Safety Board investigators recover the flight recorders from a UPS cargo plane that crashed into a field near Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport in Birmingham, Ala., on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. (twitter.com/NTSB)
August 15, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The flight recorders from a UPS cargo plane that crashed near Birmingham's airport, killing two pilots, were recovered Thursday.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators found the voice and flight recorders as they were out scouring the crash site. The recorders will be sent to Washington, D.C., to download the data, which could give clues as to what caused the crash.

The A300 jet headed from Louisville, Ky., to Birmingham, Ala., crashed into a field as it attempted to land at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport early Wednesday morning. The two pilots on board were killed. Wreckage was scattered over a wide area.

Neighbors living near the airfield reported seeing flames coming from the aircraft and hearing its engines struggle in the final moments before impact.

"It was on fire before it hit," said Jerome Sanders, who lives directly across from the runway.

Ryan Wimbleduff, who lives just across the street from the airport property, said the crash shook his house violently. Standing in his driveway, he and his mother could see the burning wreckage.

"I ran outside and it looked like the sun was coming up because of the fire on the hill," he said. "Balls of fire were rolling toward us."

A preliminary investigation indicated the pilots did not make any distress calls, NTSB board member Robert L. Sumwalt said.

UPS spokesman Jeff Wafford said the jet was carrying a variety of cargo. He did not provide additional information.

The pilots' names have not been 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 Lynchburg, Tenn.

Wes Fanning, who said he was the woman's brother-in-law, said Shanda Fanning had been flying since she was a teenager. He said officials contacted her mother and that UPS representatives were with the family.

The plane was built in 2003 and had logged about 11,000 flight hours over 6,800 flights, Airbus said in a news release.

Wednesday's crash comes nearly three years after another UPS cargo plane crashed in the United Arab Emirates, just outside Dubai. Both pilots were killed.

Authorities there blamed the Sept. 3, 2010, crash on the jet's load of 80,000 to 90,000 lithium batteries, which are sensitive to temperature. Investigators determined that a fire probably began in the cargo containing the batteries.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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