Two explosions were reported shortly after the crash, at about 4:45 a.m. (5:45 a.m. ET, and images from the crash site showed the Airbus A300 engulfed in flames.
The plane was en route from Louisville, Ky., to Birmingham as UPS Flight 1354, the FAA said in a statement. It reportedly dropped more than 9,000 feet in less than two minutes, just moments before it hit the ground and exploded.
Birmingham Mayor William Bell said both pilots on board the plane were killed.
Toni Bast, the spokeswoman for Birmingham airport authority, said the operations at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport were not affected by the crash, which occurred in a field outside the airport perimeter fence, about one-half mile away from the runway.
FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen, said the National Transportation Safety Board would investigate the crash to determine the cause.
“At this time, we are still determining the details of the incident," UPS said in a statement shortly before 8 a.m ET. "We will release more information as it becomes available. As we work through this difficult situation, we ask for your patience, and that you keep those involved in your thoughts and prayers.”