A UPS cargo jumbo jet crashed and erupted into flames a half-mile from the airport in Birmingham, Ala., this morning. The two pilots on board died in the crash, according to local police.
The plane had taken off from Louisville and was on final approach to Birmingham International Airport at 6:10 a.m. when it went down, according to authorities.
The TSA said they believed the pilot and copilot were the only individuals on board with the cargo. The National Transportation Safety Board launched an immediate investigation into the crash, announcing that they would send a full "Go Team" of investigators to Birmingham.
"The NTSB investigation will be led by our lead investigator in charge, Dr. Dan Bower, accompanied by experts in the area of structures, power plants, systems, air traffic control, human performance, aircraft performance, and a number of disciplines," said Robert Sumwalt, a board member of the NTSB who spoke in Washington, D.C., before boarding a plane to Birmingham this morning.
The team was expected to arrive in Birmingham by noon to begin their work.
Sumwalt said that he would not be able to speculate on the cause or details of the crash without seeing the wreckage first, but noted that the NTSB has been very successful at recovering black box recorders from aircraft in the past and hoped to be able to do so with the UPS plane.
The plane, an Airbus A300, was manufactured in 2004. The plane was said to be carrying a mixture of heavy cargo and freight and small packages.
It was unclear what caused the crash. Near 6 a.m., the airport had visibility of 10 miles and a cloud ceiling of 700 feet.
"This incident is very unfortunate, and our thoughts and prayers are with those involved," said UPS Airlines President Mitch Nichols.
"We place the utmost value on the safety of our employees, our customers and the public. We will immediately engage with the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation, and we will work exhaustively on response efforts," continued Nichols.
The company said that family members seeking information on the crash should telephone 800-631-0604.
Retired U.S. Marine Col. Steve Ganyard, an ABC News aviation consultant, said this morning that the NTSB would be able to quickly go into the crash site and begin recovering evidence that would help them understand the cause of the crash, including the way the plane hit the ground and the information recorded by the black boxes on board.
"The one thing that is in favor of getting this resolved quickly is we've got tapes, radar tapes, tower tapes, it looks like it's not that bad of a crash that the black boxes should survive," he said.
"The crash occurred on the runway or in the descent into the airport, so it's going to be controlled. It didn't land in trees on a mountain with terrible destruction. The flat area will allow investigators to do a thorough analysis," Ganyard said. "They can look at where the engines were, whether it was turning or not, what the speed was, if the gear was down, if the control surfaces were operating properly."
The investigators will first try to determine whether anything was specifically wrong with the airplane itself and whether other models of the airplane could pose a danger.
The A300 is one of the most widely-flown aircraft in the world. It was produced from 1974 to 2007 and 561 of the aircraft were delivered.
Source: ABC News