BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Investigators have retrieved the “black box” data recorder from a UPS cargo airplane that crashed Wednesday morning on its pre-dawn approach to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth airport outside Birmingham, Ala. The crash killed pilot Cerea Beal Jr., 58, of Matthews, N.C., and co-pilot Shandra Fanning, 37, of Lynchburg, Tenn.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators remain on the scene to document the downed cargo plane and search for further evidence. The data recorder, which was located in a smoldering area of the airplane about three hours into the search, was flown to NTSB headquarters in Washington D.C. NTSB officials hope the black box will yield flight data that could cast light on possible causes of the crash.

UPS flight 1354 was approaching the runway in Birmingham when it clipped the trees in a residential area near the airport. The plane crashed into an embankment a few hundred yards short of runway 18 in a grassy field. No people on the ground were injured.

Officials sorting through the crumpled plastic and metal debris said that the Airbus A300’s engines showed no sign of failure or a pre-engine fire, nor did the pilots issue a distress call or indicate there might be a problem with the aircraft. Dirt and debris were found inside the engine, but NTSB officials said there is no evidence indicating it was there before impact and that it was characteristic of an impact with trees and dirt.

NTSB authorities also sent investigators to Louisville, Ky., to review the airplane’s maintenance records for possible clues.

The NTSB said new information about the crash based on data from the airplane’s black box was expected late in the day Friday.

WBRC Birmingham

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