When I hear that loud heads-up from my driveway I know a package has arrived through UPS. The delivery person is a young woman with a really good pair of lungs and a perpetually sunny disposition. She always makes me smile. If I get to the door before she jumps back in her truck, I holler a loud “Thank yeeeew!” She hollers, “Your weeelcome!” or waves a hand in a “no-problemo” sign.
Because my husband Mike orders parts for his business, this is a ritual we go through quite often, since we elect to use only UPS when we have a choice. They are always professional in their dress and their brown delivery trucks are instantly recognizable with their logo in great big letters on the side. You can’t mistake them for anything else.
Since we have had a great relationship with UPS over these many years, and admire their friendly courtesy and professionalism, it was with great sadness that I turned on the local FOX station early this morning and learned that a UPS cargo plane had crashed inbound to the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport around 5 a.m. Both pilots were killed.
They crashed into a hillside just short of the airport, clipping a treetop and skimming over sleeping households. I was up at 4 a.m. this murky morning and the sun didn’t so much rise as just lighten the world through a lowering gray cloud cover. The weather man read a report he had received about 5 a.m. to the effect that visibility was very low. Reporters brought up the fact that the Birmingham Airport is not equipped for bringing in planes by computer.
If I heard correctly, the tail section was on one side of the hill and the fuselage on the other, the side the cameras were aiming at. White smoke billowed up from the far side of the hill as the fuselage rested torn and quiet at the top left. A blackened path began at the bottom of the hill and continued to the top, where the plane broke apart. Debris was scattered all along the dark path, and two huge black objects — the engine and some other part lay to the right at the top Firemen and, I suppose, airport employees (cameras were not allowed within the crash range so this was viewed from a distance) stood or moved in silent groups. The atmosphere was so obscure it was like the news crew was filming through gauze.
Even at that early hour, there were witnesses who had seen, not the crash itself, but the fiery aftermath when they went out to investigate. One man mistook the sound for a sonic boom. A couple of residents became alarmed because they could hear the plane coming in too low. One woman reported a sputtering just before contact. But reporters and airport personnel were quick to reiterate that until the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigates each and every factor, any possible cause can only be speculation.
But besides the tragic details from the crash itself, what I heard about UPS cargo pilots is how professional they are, Here in Birmingham they fly in twice a day with never a hitch. The two pilots who died were coming in from Kentucky.
Any time a plane crashes, it’s tragic. But my heart goes out, not only to the families of these two pilots, but to the UPS extended family. In a world where integrity and a good work ethic have gone the way of manners and morality, this company stands out head and shoulders among its peers. I am saddened by their misfortune and extend my heartfelt thoughts and prayers.