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Crew of 3 survives crash of FedEx jet

A FedEx Boeing 727 cargo jet crashed and burned short of the runway Friday at Tallahassee Regional Airport. The three crew members escaped with minor injuries, the company said.

They were taken to a local hospital and were reported to be in fair condition.

"They are in remarkably good shape," said Bill Behenna, a spokesman for the city, which owns the airport.

The three-engine jet, FedEx Flight 1478 from Memphis, landed a half-mile short of the runway at 5:43 a.m., said Kathleen Bergen, an FAA spokeswoman at regional offices in Atlanta.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators were on the scene.

"We can't speculate on the cause," said Jess Bunn, the FedEx spokesman at company headquarters in Memphis, Tenn.

Brooke Wilson, spokeswoman at Tallahassee Memorial Health Care, said the crew members were in fair condition. They were being checked for broken bones; they did not suffer burns, she said.

The company identified the crew as Capt. William Walsh, a veteran pilot who has flown with the cargo firm since 1992, First Officer William Frye and Second Officer David Mendez. Frye has been with FedEx since 1997, and Mendez joined the company in 2001. It wasn't clear whether Walsh was piloting the plane at the time of the crash.

"Our pilots must undergo recurrent training every six months, which is over and above what the FAA requires," Bunn said.

Wilson said the crew was declining to talk to reporters about how they got out of the plane.

The crash caused havoc with state politics, delaying qualifying paperwork from at least eight legislative candidates.

A mass of metal could be seen about a half-mile from the terminal several hours after the crash. Television footage showed orange flames burning in the center of the wreckage at dawn.

The airport was closed for about five hours, reopening at 10:35 a.m.

The plane was being monitored by regional air traffic controllers in Jacksonville when it crashed, said David Pollard, operations superintendent for the airport. The local control tower does not begin normal operations until 6 a.m.

There was fog in the area at the time of the crash, but there was no indication that weather was a factor, Pollard said.

The crash was the first for the cargo company since 1999, when one of the its MD-11s slid off the runway into the ocean upon landing at a FedEx hub in the Philippines, said company spokeswoman Sally Davenport. That crash is still under investigation.

FedEx has a fleet of 647 aircraft operating around the world, including 95 727s.