UPS Cargo Plane Sent No Distress Call Before Crash

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2013-08_b7ebcc0f7c.jpgNTSB via Getty Images(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- The UPS cargo plane that crashed and burned near the Birmingham, Ala., airport Wednesday morning never sent a distress signal or message to air traffic control before going down, authorities said later in the day. The plane was nearing the runway at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport when it went down around 6:10 a.m., authorities said.

It crashed about a half-mile from the airport, hitting the ground three times before skidding to a halt and bursting into flames as it hit the ground. Both the pilot and co-pilot were killed. There were no other individuals on board the plane, which erupted into flames as it crashed and its fuel caught fire near the plane's tail, according to Birmingham Mayor William Bell. Bell was briefed by National Transportation Security Board investigators Wednesday afternoon.

"We were told that there was no distress signal emitted from the airplane itself, and there were no calls for the airport or the control tower to assume that they were in any trouble. At this point and time that's the information that we have," Bell said.

The plane had taken off from Louisville and was on final approach to Birmingham when it went down, according to authorities.

Bell said there were UPS packages and some U.S. mail on board the flight when it went down.

Robert Sumwalt, an NTSB board member on the investigative team at the crash site, said that authorities were still working to recover the black boxes -- the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder -- from the plane. The team will collect those and other evidence to help determine the cause of the crash.

"The tail section is still smoldering, still smoking and, for that reason, we have not been able to get in and get black boxes, if you will, the flight data and cockpit voice recorders," he said at a news conference Wednesday. "The firefighters are out there still working to do that, so we are optimistic we will be able to get in there quickly and recover those recorders."

The NTSB responded to the crash site with a 26-member investigative "go team," he said.

Sumwalt said that he would not be able to speculate on the cause or details of the crash while the team investigated.

The plane, an Airbus A300, was manufactured in 2004 and is one of the most widely-flown aircraft in the world.

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