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Local native killed in UPS plane crash

Thursday, August 15, 2013

(Photo)
Shanda Carney Fanning looks at a C-47 aircraft at Shelbyville Municipal Airport, where she worked from 1999 to 2002.
(Submitted photo, courtesy Hank Williamson)
Shelbyville native Shanda Carney Fanning was one of the two pilots killed Wednesday morning in the crash of a United Parcel Service airplane in Birmingham, Ala., according to multiple sources.

Although neither UPS nor the National Transportation Safety Board has officially released the names, several media outlets and a cousin of Fanning's from Shelbyville have confirmed that she was on the flight. Fanning's husband Bret is employed at the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg.

'What a tragedy'

(Photo)
Shanda Carney Fanning behind the counter in the terminal at Shelbyville Municipal Airport.
(Submitted photo courtesy of Hank Williamson)
"My, what a tragedy," said Hank Williamson, general manager of Shelbyville Municipal Airport, where Fanning worked from 1999 to 2002.

Williamson said Fanning already had her pilot's license when Williamson came to the Shelbyville airport in 1997. He said she still visited the airport on occasion.

He recalls her as being enthusiastic about flying.

He said she may have been the first woman from Shelbyville to go on to a career as a commercial pilot.

"We were very proud of her," he said.

"She died doing what she wanted to do," he said. "She lived and breathed aviation."

1994 SCHS grad

According to the web site MyLife.com and her Facebook page, Fanning was a 1994 graduate of Shelbyville Central High School.

Wes Fanning, her brother-in-law, told The Associated Press that Shanda Fanning had been flying since she was a teenager.

He said officials contacted her mother and that UPS representatives were with the family.

"All of us at UPS extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of these two crew members," said UPS Chairman and CEO Scott Davis in a news release. "Our efforts now are primarily focused on helping the families."

UPS helps

The UPS Family Assistance Team already has reached out to support the crew members' families during this difficult time, Davis said.

"We place utmost importance on the safety of our employees, our customers and the communities we serve," Davis said. "UPS is participating in the investigation." The NTSB has taken the lead on the investigation and will release all information on its progress.

"The news from Birmingham is tragic," said the president of the Independent Pilots Association, Captain Robert Travis. "UPS and the Independent Pilots Association lost two pilots who were dear friends, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families. IPA is working in full coordination and cooperation with UPS, the NTSB and local authorities."

The crash

The A300 jet headed from Louisville, Ky., to Birmingham, Ala., landed in a field near the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport around daybreak Wednesday, killing the two pilots on board and scattering wreckage over a wide area. The aircraft rained pieces of metal into front yards and sheared off a piece of one family's back deck.

The crash happened in a grassy field where a neighborhood stood until several years ago, when airport officials began buying up and then razing houses to clear the area near the end of the runway.

But such offers, which began in 1986, weren't made on some of the nearby homes, including that of Cornelius and Barbara Benson, who live in a two-story, split-foyer home just a short walk from the crash site.

"Hopefully we can get out of here now," said Cornelius Benson.

The jet clipped trees around the Bensons' yard, leaving broken plastic and twisted metal on the ground, and took a piece of their deck before slamming into a hill.

No distress calls

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team of investigators to the scene.

A preliminary investigation indicated the pilots did not make any distress calls, NTSB board member Robert L. Sumwalt said.

Investigators were waiting to retrieve the cockpit-voice and flight-data recorders because the tail of the aircraft was still smoldering, Sumwalt said.

UPS spokesman Jeff Wafford said the jet was carrying a variety of cargo. He did not elaborate.

Ryan Wimbleduff, who lives just across the street from the airport property, said the crash shook his house violently. Standing in his driveway, he and his mother could see the burning wreckage.

"I ran outside and it looked like the sun was coming up because of the fire on the hill," he said. "Balls of fire were rolling toward us."

Close to ground

Cornelius Benson, 75, 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, 72, has sometimes been able to "to wave at the captains as they pass."

Wimbleduff said it can be unsettling living so near low-flying, big aircraft.

"We'll sometimes be outside and joke about being able to throw rocks at them, they're so close," he said.

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.

Runway

James Giles 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.