UPS cargo plane has crashed in a field outside an airport in Alabama, killing the pilot and co-pilot, a US official and the mayor say.
The Airbus A300 plane belonging to the freight handling company UPS was travelling from Louisville in Kentucky on Wednesday and crashed while approaching Birmingham airport, about half a mile (0.8km) north of the runway, said Kathleen Bergen, an official with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Birmingham mayor William Bell said the pilot and co-pilot died in the pre-dawn crash, the news web site al.com said. They were the only people on board.
No one was injured on the ground, Mr Bell was quoted as saying. A church and several homes lie 500 metres from the crash site, al.com said.
It quoted one Eddie Smith, who lives near the airport, as saying he heard a loud explosion before dawn.
“It shook my house so hard I jumped up,” Mr Smith said. Later, another loud boom rang out, he said.
Video on the website showed flames at the crash site in a green grassy area and columns of grey smoke rising.
Many fire trucks were on the scene.
UPS issued a brief statement saying it would provide details as they become available, but gave no word on how many people were on the plane.
“As we work through this difficult situation, we ask for your patience, and that you keep those involved in your thoughts and prayers,” the UPS statement said.
There were no homes in the immediate area of the crash, said Toni Herrera-Bast, a spokeswoman for Birmingham’s airport authority.
“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.
Ms Herrera-Bast said the plane crashed in “open land” she described as a grassy field on the outskirts of Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. The crash hasn’t affected airport operations, she said.
At 7am local time Wednesday, conditions in the area were rainy with low clouds. Smoke was still rising from the crash scene at 7.47am. A piece of the plane’s white fuselage could be seen near a blackened area on the ground.
“The plane is in several sections,” said Mr Bell, who was briefed on the situation by the city’s fire chief.
“There were two to three small explosions, but we think that was related to the aviation fuel.”
Previously, a UPS cargo plane crashed on September 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. [AFP]