Here's the day after article from the MEM Commerical Appeal newspaper:
Engine explodes as FedEx jet lands
Blazing arrival brings questions [sic]
By Sherri Drake
December 19, 2003
A blazing FedEx cargo plane rumbled down an airport runway Thursday, sending quivers through nearby buildings.
Two pilots and five passengers bolted to safety through the front windows of the fiery plane.
Hours later, the plane's charred carcass was still drawing onlookers and acrid smoke drifted through the air.
One of the plane's three engines apparently exploded sometime between when it landed and stopped, airport officials said Thursday.
On board the flight from Oakland, Calif., were two FedEx pilots and five other pilots, who were traveling as jump seat passengers. FedEx wouldn't identify those on board.
Witnesses from nearby businesses said they heard two loud booms and felt a quake in the walls as the plane landed.
"It sounded like a dadgum bomb went off," said Mike Williams, manager of Johnson Products on Rudder Road.
When Lisa Bell and Laurie Moultrie felt the sudden clap, they ran from their buildings toward the runway, they said.
"You could see fireballs," said Bell, who works at Memphis Sign Erectors.
Orange flames were all that was visible through the billowing clouds of smoke.
"You couldn't see nothing of the plane. It was just big, black smoke," said Ronnie Hopper, who looked on with co-workers from Jamison Steel Rule Die.
"We thought, 'Man, they're dead.' "
But very quickly, through the thick smoke, passengers appeared through the front windows and shimmied down cords on the plane's nose.
"It's kinda funny, but they were throwing their stuff out and then coming out. It was like luggage and a box and then the guys," Hopper said.
Tower officials weren't aware of any problems on board when the plane made a by-the-book landing, they said.
"There was no advance warning," said Larry Cox, president and CEO of the airport authority. "The crew did not contact the tower," he said. "Normally, if a crew has a cautionary landing, they'll call ahead so we can have the Fire Department stand by."
As soon as the plane landed, however, tower officials saw a small fire on the right side landing gear.
The plane veered down the runway and the landing gear came off, Cox said.
Aviation officials were trying to find the fire's cause Thursday. Faulty landing gear, problems in the cargo bay or in the plane's engine were among the possibilities.
The plane's right wing and engine ripped from the body of the plane and were hanging by a thread.
Nearly 100 Memphis firefighters arrived at the scene around 12:30 p.m. Thursday. They blanketed the soot-covered MD-10 with foam as it rested on its right side across the runway.
The MD-10, similar to a DC-10, has 16,000 cubic feet in available cargo space and as much capacity as four 40-foot railroad freight cars.
It took firefighters nearly an hour to extinguish the fire, officials said.
Three of the seven passengers were taken to the Regional Medical Center at Memphis for evaluation, said FedEx spokesman Pam Roberson.
The four others were taken to Methodist Healthcare-South.
At The Med, paramedics unloaded three pilots around 2 p.m.
A gray FedEx blanket was wrapped around one pilot while another pilot's face and body were covered with a yellow firefighter's jacket.
"No one was seriously injured and under their protest they were brought to the hospital as a precaution," Roberson said.
Many travelers in the terminals of the Memphis International Airport scurried about as usual, unaware of the disaster so close by.
"I didn't see anything, no rescue vehicles or anything. Seemed as normal as could be," said Jim Porter, who'd just arrived from Melbourne, Fla.
The landing caused no cancellations, diversions or disruption in air traffic, said the airport authority's Cox.
The troubled landing did close one of the airport's four runways. And officials closed a second runway so firefighters could reach the burning plane, he said.
The plane could stay on the runway for up to 24 hours, if investigators need that much time, Cox said. It was still there Thursday night.
The damage from the landing was the most substantial he's seen in his 30 years at the airport, Cox said.
Airport officials worked to reopen the center runway late Thursday.
The FBI is making a routine check to see if foul play was involved, Cox said.
If foul play is ruled out, the National Transportation Safety Board will be responsible for determining causes.
FedEx officials Thursday started notifying customers whose packages were on the plane. Most of the cargo was in containers, so officials are assuming the packages are in decent shape.