A pilot from Tennessee was one of the two crew members on a UPS cargo plane that crashed and burned near the Birmingham, AL, airport.
Family members confirm that Shanda Fanning, 37, of Lynchburg, TN, was one of the crew members on board UPS Flight 1354 from Louisville, KY, that crashed about one-half mile from the runway about 5 a.m.
The identity of her crew mate has not been released.
The crash scattered boxes and charred debris across the grassy field outside the airport, officials said.
The pilot and co-pilot of the Airbus A300 widebody jet were pronounced dead at the scene, said Birmingham Fire Chief Ivor Brooks. The crash site had been burning, but the blaze was extinguished by late morning, Brooks said.
The plane crashed in an open field on the outskirts of Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, said Toni Herrera-Bast, a spokeswoman for the city's airport authority. The crash had not affected airport operations, though it did appear to topple a tree and a utility pole.
The top was broken out of the tree and there are pieces of a utility pole and limbs in the road. Nearby, grass was blackened near the bottom of a hill. A piece of the fuselage and an engine are visible on the crest of the hill. White smoke was pouring from the other side of the hill.
It was not immediately known what the plane was carrying. UPS spokesman Jeff Wafford said only that the plane was carrying a variety of cargo.
In a statement, UPS Airlines President Mitch Nichols said:
"This incident is very unfortunate, and our thoughts and prayers are with those involved.
"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."
For now, the NTSB will work with local investigators to pinpoint what caused the crash.
Fanning graduated from Shelbyville High School then went on to Middle Tennessee State University, where she majored in aerospace.
She learned to fly at the Shelbyville Municipal Airport, where a close friend said Wednesday that Fanning was a smart, talented woman who achieved so much.
"Shanda was doing what she wanted to do, and we a feel that way it's what we love," said airport manager Hank Williamson.
Fanning was residing with her husband in Lynchburg at the time of the crash, but she grew up in Shelbyville and spent many days at the local airport. She even worked for Williamson from 1999 to 2002.
"She was loved," Williamson said. "I still can't believe it."
Williamson said he'll always have fond memories of Fanning; someone he remembers as a strong woman and an excellent pilot.
Fanning's family in Lynchburg, as you might imagine, said they were too upset to talk for now. But we know she is survived by a husband and other family members who loved her very much.
Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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