Nightly News   |  August 14, 2013

What caused UPS Flight 1345 to crash?

An early morning plane crash killed two crewmen aboard a UPS cargo flight. Investigators hope flight data recorders will uncover what went wrong on Flight 1345. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we also woke up to news this morning in this country of another major air crash , the second in the u.s. this summer. this time it was a u.p.s. wide body cargo jet that went down just short of the runway in birmingham, alabama, exploding in a ball of flames. tonight as investigators begin their work, part of the spotlight turns to broader safety questions about air cargo . nbc's tom costello reports.

>> reporter: in a field just north of the runway in birmingham, the burning remains of u.p.s. cargo flight 1354 , both crew members dead. just before 5:00 a.m . central time , witnesses reported hearing what sounded like a plane in trouble, then the crash.

>> a bomb was blowing up, like the whole house just shook.

>> reporter: arriving firefighters battled several explosions. investigators say there was no distress call from the pilots. the nose mostly intact suggests the rear of of the plane may have hit the plane first.

>> the tail section of the aircraft is still smoldering, still smoking.

>> reporter: the ntsb hopes to recover the black boxes to learn more about what went wrong. while investigators won't know for some time what caused this crash, several recent accidents involving cargo planes have raised some serious concerns. a 2010 u.p.s. crash in dubai was blamed on a load of lithium batteries that overheated and caught fire. in april, a cargo plane crashed and exploded in afghanistan. investigators believe the cargo on board suddenly shifted on takeoff.

>> the ntsb investigators will look to be sure that the cargo remains secure throughout the flight and that it didn't unexpectedly shift.

>> reporter: u.p.s. is telling customers to check their tracking numbers to see if their package was aaffected. meanwhile, investigators will be looking at the flight crew 's work schedule. after a plane crash in buffalo in 2009 , the faa issued new rules including a minimum of ten-hour rest periods between duty days for pilots. but the rules didn't apply to the cargo pilots. they won an exemption. tom costello, nbc news, washington.