Pilot, co-pilot die in UPS cargo plane crash in Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A large UPS cargo plane crashed Wednesday in an open field just outside an airport in Birmingham, Alabama, killing two crew members aboard.

Birmingham Fire Chief Ivor Brooks said the pilot and co-pilot were pronounced dead at the scene

The A300 crashed on its approach to the airport before dawn, U.S. Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said. The plane was en route from Louisville, Kentucky.

“The plane is in several sections,” said Birmingham Mayor William Bell, who was briefed by the city’s fire chief. “There were two to three small explosions, but we think that was related to the aviation fuel.”

Sharon Wilson, who lives near the airport, said she was in bed 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,'” Wilson said.

Another resident, Jerome Sanders, lives directly across from the runway. He said he heard a plane just before dawn and could see flames seconds before it crashed.

“It was on fire before it hit,” Sanders said.

A spokeswoman for Birmingham’s airport authority, Toni Herrera-Bast, said no homes were in the immediate area. She said the crash had not affected operations at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, one of the country’s smaller airports that serves the South.

Conditions in the area were rainy with low clouds Wednesday morning. Smoke was still rising from the scene almost three hours after the crash. A piece of the plane’s fuselage lay near some blackened ground.

In September 2010, a UPS cargo plane crashed in the United Arab Emirates, just outside Dubai. Both pilots were killed. Authorities blamed that 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 that cargo.