WVTM Video of Flames/Explosion After a large plane crash.
By Mark Boxley, The Courier-Journal
The investigation into the deadly crash of a UPS cargo plane Wednesday in Birmingham, Ala., will be starting "in earnest" Thursday morning with the National Transportation Safety Board and members of the FBI Evidence Response Team on the ground sorting through the wreckage.
The UPS-owned Airbus A300-600 en route from Louisville crashed just short of the runway at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport at about 6 a.m. Wednesday, killing two crew members and leaving a debris field hundreds of yards long.
While the crew members' names have not been officially released, one of the pilots has been identified by family and friends as Shanda Fanning, 37, of Lynchburg, Tenn.
The goal of the NTSB investigation is "not just to find out what happened, but more importantly, why it happened so we can keep it from happening again," said NTSB member Robert Sumwalt.
A 26-member "Go Team" from the NTSB will be split into several groups that will look at individual aspects of the crash, including the aircraft structure, the engines, weather, human factors, and air traffic control, Sumwalt said.
"We will be looking at everything that may be relevant to the causation of this accident," he said.
Background investigation into the aircraft and flight crew history had already begun, he added.
The cause of the accident will not be determined while investigators are on the ground at the scene of the wreck, said NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss. That will not happen until much later in the investigation, he said.
The NTSB will not speculate a possible cause of the accident until that time, Sumwalt said.
While the cause of the crash has not been determined, aspects of the plane's descent and impact have been released by the NTSB.
Evidence shows the plane clipped a stand of trees before hitting the ground at the bottom of a hill, where it appears the cargo jet caught fire and started breaking apart, Sumwalt said. The front section of the plane -- which included the cockpit -- ramped up the hill and continued for about 200 yards before finally coming to a rest, he said.
The rear section of the plane -- including the wings and tail -- continued on about 80 yards further, he said.
The over-wing section of the plane was extensively damaged by the fire and the tail section was still smoldering Wednesday afternoon, hindering efforts to collect flight data recorders from the wreckage, he said.
There was no distress call from the plane before impact, Sumwalt said.
No new information on the crash was released early Thursday but a press conference would be held at some point in the afternoon, Weiss said.
Meanwhile, the Independent Pilots Association and UPS are attending to the families of the crew members killed in the crash, said IPA spokesman Brian Gaudet. There are family assistance associations providing technical assistance involving things like insurance and pensions, he said.
But more importantly the IPA and UPS are giving the families "human support" as they deal with the deaths of their loved ones, he said.
"It's pretty much a hands-on kind of thing immediately, he said.
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