LYNCHBURG, Tenn. (WHNT) — Friends and neighbors of Shanda Fanning, one of the pilots killed in the UPS cargo flight crash, say she wanted to fly from a very young age.
Fanning died Wednesday when the Airbus A300 she was flying crashed on approach to the Birmingham, Alabama, airport, Mayor William Bell said.
The plane, which took off from Louisville, Kentucky, went down around 4:45 a.m., according to airport officials. It crashed on a street that runs parallel to the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, Bell said.
News of the air crash traveled fast in the rural community known around the world for the Jack Daniel’s Distillery located here.
Family members did not want to talk about the crash Wednesday, but friends who knew Fanning say “she was a sweet simple country girl at heart.”
At the community CO-OP Smiley Burton choked back tears as he talked about Fanning. The two were good friends who would ride horses together regularly. Burton says he spoke with Fanning just two days ago.
“Some of the best times when we would be talking about horses, riding horses, breaking horses, she has always been happy, she’s always had a smile, she’s happy she could be, she was a good person,” Burton told WHNT News 19 Wednesday.
Fanning’s family is well-known in the area according to neighbors who say Fanning had wanted to be a pilot since she was a child.
UPS officials meet our news crew at the front driveway of the home where Shanda and her husband lived. They say this is a very difficult time for the family and they are asking for privacy. An American flag in front of the home was flying at half-staff as friends came and went from inside the family home.
The question on everyone here in Fanning’s hometown want answered is how something like this could happen.
Witnesses near the crash site reported hearing “a large boom” followed by several other explosions.
No buildings were hit and no one on the ground was injured, Bell said.
“This incident is very unfortunate, and our thoughts and prayers are with those involved,” UPS Airlines President Mitch Nichols said in a statement.
What caused the jet to crash was unclear. The weather was calm at the time, Bell said. The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team of investigators to the site.
The plane was one of two flights UPS sends to Birmingham each day, company spokesman Mike Mangeot told CNN affiliate WBRC.
Only UPS and FedEx fly the A300 in the United States, according to its manufacturer, Airbus. While it was once used for commercial passenger flights in the United States, the plane is now used only for cargo flights. UPS has 53 of the planes, according to Airbus. The plane that crashed Wednesday was built in 2004, according to FAA records.
Wednesday’s crash is the second involving an A300 in the United States. In 2001, an American Airlines A300 crashed in the Belle Harbor neighborhood of Queens, in New York City, shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport.
All 260 people on board the plane, as well as five people on the ground, were killed.
The cause was ultimately attributed to pilot error, according to the NTSB, which said the first officer put excessive pressure on the rudder pedal, causing the separation of the vertical stabilizer.
The latest crash comes nearly three years after UPS’s last major incident, the crash of a Boeing 747 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, that killed two crew members.
Investigators traced the crash to a large fire in the cargo hold, which included a number of flammable lithium batteries, according to the country’s General Civil Aviation Authority.
In 2006, a McDonnell Douglas DC-8 flown by UPS caught fire after landing at Philadelphia International Airport. Three crew members on the plane evacuated with minor injuries, according to NTSB records. Most of the cargo was destroyed.