The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

August 14, 2013

UPS jet crashes near Birmingham airport, 2 dead

(Continued)

Chunks of riveted metal that appeared to be from the plane landed in the yard of Cornelius and Barbara Benson, who also live near the crash site.

Barbara Benson said she was awakened by a tremendous boom and "saw a big red flash" through her bedroom window.

As day broke, the two were able to see that the tops of trees around their property had been knocked down and they were missing a piece of their back deck.

Cornelius Benson 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 has sometimes been able to "to wave at the captains as they pass."

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, who lives just off the airport's property, 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.

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