NTSB to investigate FedEx jet fire today - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

NTSB to investigate FedEx jet fire today

     Employees at businesses near Memphis International Airport were going about their daily routines when they heard two loud explosions and felt the walls of their buildings quake. It wasn't a bomb, but a FedEx cargo jet that had caught fire while landing Thursday.
     The plane slide off a runway and came to a stop before all seven on board, including two pilots, exited the burning plane through front windows and slid down ropes on the plane's nose.
     "It sounded like a dadgum bomb went off," Mike Williams, manager of nearby Johnson Products, told The Commercial Appeal.
     The two FedEx pilots and five other pilots, who were traveling as jump seat passengers, were taken to hospitals for evaluation. None were seriously injured. The cause of the incident had not been determined, but a preliminary investigation indicated the plane's right landing gear collapsed before the fire began. 
     "It would appear that would be the sequence," Ted Lopatkiewicz of the National Transportation Safety Board said from Washington, D.C. The NTSB dispatched a team of investigators to Memphis.
      The FBI is making a check of the plane to see if foul play was involved, said Larry Cox, president and CEO of the airport authority. The MD-10, a widebody cargo jet similar to a DC-10, was arriving on a flight from Oakland, Calif. when it skidded off a runway while on fire.
      The flames were extinguished an hour later, but the plane was heavily damaged. Several large holes were burned in the right side of the fuselage, which was blackened by smoke.
      The plane was still on the closed runway Thursday night and could remain there for 24 hours, Cox said. Nearly 100 Memphis firefighters arrived on the scene, officials said.
      FedEx often transports hazardous materials, but company spokesman Jim McCluskey said investigators still were determining what cargo was aboard the aircraft and whether it was damaged. FedEx officials on Thursday began notifying customers who had packages on the plane. 
     "There's no evidence whatsoever of a bomb or any terror activity related to this incident," McCluskey said. Another company spokesman, Ed Coleman, said the crew didn't report any problems before the landing. Several ropes that are part of emergency equipment for exiting aircraft could be seen hanging from the plane. The plane's right wing was on the ground. FedEx, founded and headquartered in Memphis, owns the world's largest cargo airline. The company's presence makes the Memphis airport the world's busiest cargo airport.
      "We do not expect this incident to have any significant impact on our operations at the Memphis hub or our global network," McCluskey said. While FedEx planes carry cargo, many have limited accommodations for company employees to ride as passengers. The incident was the fourth involving FedEx jets in the past seven years. A FedEx Boeing 727 crashed and burned short of a runway in Tallahassee, Fla., in 2002.
        In Newark, N.J., an MD-11 landed hard and flipped to its back, snapping off a wing while skidding down the runway on fire in 1997. An investigation determined the pilot miscalculated the length of the runway. In 1996, a FedEx DC-10 caught fire en route from Memphis to Boston and had to make an emergency landing in Newburgh, N.Y.
        The aircraft was destroyed and the NTSB never reached a conclusion about what started the fire. No one was seriously injured in any of those incidents.


 (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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