UPS cargo jet crashes in Birmingham, Ala.

AP Photo

A UPS cargo plane crashed Wednesday morning as it approached an Alabama airport, killing two crew members on board and scattering boxes and charred debris across the grassy field where it made impact, officials said.

The pilot and co-pilot of the jet were pronounced dead at the scene, said Birmingham Fire Chief Ivor Brooks. The crash site had been burning, but the blaze was extinguished by late morning, Brooks said.

The plane crashed in an open field on the outskirts of Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, said Toni Herrera-Bast, a spokeswoman for the city's airport authority. The crash had not affected airport operations, though it did appear to topple a tree and a utility pole.

The airbus A-300 had been approach to land. But its burning wreckage ended up in a field short of the runway after passing over homes.

"We were in bed and we heard something go over the house, and it sounded like a plane had gave out of fuel, and a few minutes later we heard this loud boom and we really didn't know what it was,” says Sharon Miller.

A National Transportation Safety Board Go Team left Washington Wednesday morning for the crash site. By afternoon, investigators had begun trying to figure out what went wrong.

The pilots were the only crew aboard ups flight 1354 traveling from Louisville, Ky.

So far, it appears they did not report any issues prior to the crash, making the search for the flight data and voice recorders - the so called black boxes - crucial.

“The board has very good success rate with being able to recover the recorders so at this point I'm optimistic that we will be able to recover those,” says NTSB Board Member Robert Sumwalt.

In a statement, the president of ups airlines says: "We place the utmost value on the safety of our employees, our customers and the public. We will immediately engage with the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation, and we will work exhaustively on response efforts."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.