A FedEx cargo plane en route from China crashed in high winds and exploded in a ball of flames Monday at Tokyo's Narita airport, killing both pilots, according to Japanese hospital officials.
The pair, believed to be US citizens, were reportedly the only two people aboard the wide-body McDonnell Douglas MD-11, which was flying in from Guangzhou in southern China.
The accident was believed to be the worst ever at Japan's largest airport, one of the busiest air hubs in the world, and the meteorological agency said it had warned airlines of a risk of wind shear.
Television footage showed FedEx Flight 80 touching down about 6:50 am (2150 GMT Sunday). The rear wheels hit the tarmac and then the aircraft's nose hit the runway before the plane bounced onto its left wing.
It then immediately exploded into flames and skidded at high speed while billowing black smoke, before flipping onto its left side and coming to a halt off the side of the runway.
Fire engines and scores of fire-fighters in silver suits rushed to the gutted aircraft, with orange flames still shooting out of its fuselage, to douse the fire with foam.
Public broadcaster NHK said the pilot was 54 years old and the co-pilot was 49, and that both were US nationals.
"We confirm the deaths of the two pilots," Katsuji Komiyama, an official at Narita Red Cross hospital told AFP.
Winds as strong as 72 kilometers (45 miles) per hour were registered around the airport at the time of the crash, the meteorological agency said.
It said it had notified airlines Sunday of the risk of wind shear, a dangerous condition for planes coming in to land, when wind speed and direction suddenly change.
The crash closed down Runway A, the longer of the airport's two main runways.
Airport officials said the crash would cause flight cancellations and delays at Narita, Japan's main international airport, and that scores of flights had been diverted to other airports, including Haneda airport closer to Tokyo.
The transport ministry sent an investigation team to determine the cause of the crash.
The crash was believed to be the worst accident at Narita airport, where no aircraft has crash-landed since its opening in 1978, an airport official said, although he added that records were still being checked.
Late last month 47 passengers and crew were injured when a Northwest Airlines Boeing 747 hit turbulence while circling near Narita.