(AP Photo/Hal Yeager). Investigators work near a section of debris of a UPS Airbus A300 cargo plane after it crashed on approach at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport this morning Wednesday Aug. 14, 2013 in Birmingham, Ala.
(AP Photo/AL.com, Mark Almond)
(AP Photo/Butch Dill). The wreckage from a UPS cargo plane lies on the ground next to runways at the Birmingham International airport in Birmingham, Ala. on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013.
(AP Photo/Butch Dill). Investigators search through the debris on the scene of a UPS cargo plane crash at the Birmingham International airport in Birmingham, Ala. on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013.
Birmingham, Alabama (CNN) -- The National
Transportation Safety Board on Thursday recovered data recorders from
the UPS plane that crashed this week in Birmingham, NTSB spokeswoman
Kelly Nantel said. The recorders will be taken to Washington for
examination later in the day.
Investigators had to use
picks and shovels to retrieve the data recorders from the wreckage
because flames in the plane's tail section kept officials from accessing
The devices could help investigators determine why the plane -- which did not issue a distress call -- went down early Wednesday while on approach to the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.
The Airbus A300-600F
broke into pieces -- killing the pilot and a co-pilot -- as it crashed
around 4:45 a.m. in an open field near a street that runs parallel to
The cargo plane had 12
"service difficulty" reports on file at the Federal Aviation
Administration, including at least two that the reports indicated led
pilots to declare emergencies.
But an aviation expert told CNN he believes none of the previous problems would have played a role in Wednesday's accident.
The reports document
problems ranging from an inoperative light in an emergency exit light
assembly to a problem with the plane's flaps.
"I don't see anything
there that indicates in any way that its related to the events in
Birmingham," said John Goglia, a former NTSB member and former
certificated aircraft mechanic.
The flap problem,
reported in 2006 while the plane was flying in Germany, might raise
concern had it not occurred so long ago, he said.
Witnesses said the
plane, which took off from Louisville, Kentucky, flew low over a
neighborhood, striking the tops of trees and knocking down power lines
as it crashed.
The crash site is about a half-mile north of a runway.
A photo showing the jet
engine blades only partially damaged could indicate that the engines
were not running or were at "very low idle" upon impact, instead of the
faster "flight idle" typical upon landing, Goglia said.
"An engine that is
producing power, those (blades) would have been gone," said Goglia. The
lack of damage suggests that "they weren't spinning so fast and they
If the data recorders
contain information, investigators should be able to quickly discover
the status of the engines before impact.
But if the data is not retrievable, investigators will focus on the condition of the blades, Goglia predicted.
Airbus said Wednesday
the plane had approximately 11,000 flight hours in some 6,800 flights.
It was powered by Pratt & Whitney engines.
The plane was one of two flights UPS sends to Birmingham each day, company spokesman Mike Mangeot told CNN affiliate WBRC.
The crew did not report
any trouble, Birmingham Mayor William Bell said, citing conversations
with control tower officials. Light showers and a visibility of 10 miles
were reported in the area of the airport at the time of the crash,
according to CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Investigators have taken a large box-like object from the tail section of a UPS jet that crashed at Birmingham's airport, killing two pilots.
Thursday's search focused on the tail section of the aircraft, where the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder are typically located.
The National Transportation Board hasn't said whether it has located the devices.
Late Thursday morning, a reporter observed an investigator carrying the box-like object from the tail section. Investigators gathered around it for a moment, then put it on an ATV and left without commenting.
The two devices could hold key evidence about what happened as the jet was attempting to land in Birmingham early Wednesday. The plane slammed into a hillside just short of the runway.
By JAY REEVES and ERIK SCHELZIG Associated Press
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Residents in a hilly neighborhood near Birmingham's airport worried about the possibility of a plane crashing into their homes for years before a UPS cargo jet nearly did just that.
The A300 jet headed from Louisville, Ky., to Birmingham, Ala., landed in a field near the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport around daybreak Wednesday, killing the two pilots on board and scattering wreckage over a wide area. The aircraft rained pieces of metal into front yards and sheared off a piece of one family's back deck.
The crash happened in a grassy field where a neighborhood stood until several years ago, when airport officials began buying up and then razing houses to clear the area near the end of the runway.
But such offers, which began in 1986, weren't made on some of the nearby homes, including that of Cornelius and Barbara Benson, who live in a two-story, split-foyer home just a short walk from the crash site.
"Hopefully we can get out of here now," said Cornelius Benson.
The jet clipped trees around the Bensons' yard, leaving broken plastic and twisted metal on the ground, and took a piece of their deck before slamming into a hill.
Other 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.
The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team of investigators to the scene.
A preliminary investigation indicated the pilots did not make any distress calls, NTSB board member Robert L. Sumwalt said.
Investigators were waiting to retrieve the cockpit-voice and flight-data recorders because the tail of the aircraft was still smoldering, Sumwalt said.
UPS spokesman Jeff Wafford said the jet was carrying a variety of cargo. He did not elaborate.
The pilots' names were not immediately 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.
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."
Cornelius Benson, 75, said planes routinely fly so low over his house that a few years ago, the airport authority sent crews to trim treetops.
The planes come close enough that Barbara Benson, 72, has sometimes been able to "to wave at the captains as they pass."
Ryan Wimbleduff, who lives across the street from the airport property and watched the UPS jet burn, said it can be unsettling living so near low-flying, big aircraft.
"We'll sometimes be outside and joke about being able to throw rocks at them, they're so close," he said.
Sharon Wilson, who also lives near the airport, said she was in bed before dawn when she heard what sounded like engines sputtering as the plane went over her house.
James Giles said the plane missed his home by a couple of hundred yards, judging from tree damage and debris. He was at work at the time but said it was clear from the scene that the plane was attempting to land on the north-south runway that is typically used by much smaller aircraft. Large planes such as the A300 typically aim for the bigger east-west runway, he said.
"They were just trying to get to a landing spot, anywhere," he said.
The plane was built in 2003 and had logged about 11,000 flight hours over 6,800 flights, Airbus said in a news release.
The A300, Airbus' first plane, began flying in 1972. Airbus quit building them in 2007 after making a total of 816 A300 and A310s. The model was retired from U.S. passenger service in 2009.
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.