CNN) -- The pilot and co-pilot aboard a FedEx cargo plane were killed when the plane burst into flames Monday while landing at Tokyo's Narita airport in Japan, airport and hospital officials said.
Both crew members were American men, an official at Narita Red Cross Hospital told CNN.
Video from the landing showed the plane bouncing at least twice on the runway and veering left as it turned on its side before bursting into flames. The fire destroyed the aircraft, which was identified by FedEx as a McDonnell Douglas MD-11.
Strong winds may have played a role in the crash, said Masaru Fujisaki, an airport official.
FedEx Express Flight 80 took off from Guangzhou, China, and crashed at Narita about 6 a.m. Monday (5 p.m. Sunday ET), said FedEx spokesman Matt Ceniceros.
According to observations at the airport, wind gusts were reported to be between 30 to 50 mph around the time if the crash.
Japan's Kyodo news agency reported that Narita firefighters had worked through the flaming wreckage to try to rescue two people believed to be the crew.
The news agency said the cargo plane was landing on Runway A, the longer of the two runways at Narita, a major international airport.
Tokyo Crash Brings Attention to Plane's Shortcomings
By ANDY PASZTOR and JOHN MURPHY
U.S. Crew Dies in Japan FedEx Plane Landing
A FedEx cargo plane smashed into a runway and burst into flames Monday at Japan's Narita Airport, killing the American pilot and copilot. Wind may be to blame. The MD-11, a wide-body airliner built by McDonnell Douglas and based on the DC-10, is infamous in aviation circles for being hard to control in high winds such as those reported at the time of the accident.
Police officials said FedEx Flight 80, which had taken off from Guangzhou in southern China, burst into flames as it touched down at Narita Airport a little before 7 a.m. Video footage of the accident showed the plane's rear wheels hitting the tarmac before the aircraft became airborne briefly and then slammed nose-first into the runway and rolled onto its left wing. The 1980s-era jet immediately exploded into flames and skidded at high speed while spewing black smoke, before sliding to a halt off the side of the runway.
Firefighters and rescuers swarmed the MD-11 plane but the pilot and copilot -- Kevin Kyle Mosley, 54 years old, from Hillsboro, Ore., and Anthony Stephen Pino, 49, from San Antonio, Texas -- were killed, according to the Associated Press.
Initial press accounts, including television news reports, said weather reports indicated winds were blowing about 40 miles an hour, and airlines had been warned about a risk of wind shear at the time of the accident.
Aviation safety experts in the U.S. said the MD-11's long history of problematic, highly sensitive flight-control systems was bound to be one of the major early issues examined by crash investigators.
FedEx and other carriers around the world experienced a string of accidents and incidents over the years attributed to the MD-11's particular flight-control software. Nearly a decade ago, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration was worried enough about the issue to prod the plane's manufacturer to redesign such control systems to reduce the chances of sudden nose up or nose down maneuvers. Afterward, FedEx and other operators said the changes significantly enhanced safety by making the plane easier to control, particularly just before landings.
With the twisted wreckage still smoldering hours after firefighters doused the intense fire, U.S. and Japanese crash investigators began the task of finding out why the cockpit crew of the three-engine jet apparently lost control at the end of the flight.
Among the issues investigators are expected to delve into are the speed of the landing, and what commands the pilots executed as the nose initially dropped and then pointed downward again before impact. MD-11 pilots over the years reported that the plane`s flight-control systems tend to exaggerate cockpit commands to vertically change the orientation of the nose.
The crash closed down the longer of the airport's two main runways.
U.S. and most foreign carriers phased out MD-11s from passenger operations partly because of their high fuel consumption, but also because of the model's relatively short range for a wide-body aircraft. But some carriers, including Delta Air Lines Inc., became disenchanted with the plane's often touchy handling.
At one point, Delta's management took the unusual precaution of instructing all MD-11 pilots to manually fly the planes up to cruise altitude -- in order to better understand their handling characteristics. But with some software and other modifications, FedEx and other cargo carriers have come to depend heavily on MD-11 aircraft originally built for cargo as well as planes converted from passenger use.
According to the Associated Press, Sandra Munez, a spokeswoman for FedEx in the U.S., said customers that had packages on the plane will be dealt with on an individual basis through the company`s risk management and claims departments.
''As soon as the authorities give us permission, we contact customers and notify them of the incident," she said.
—Akane Ichikawa contributed to this article.
—Write to Andy Pasztor at firstname.lastname@example.org and John Murphy at email@example.com
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