A small airplane crashed near a suburban Anchorage airport Friday, exploding on impact and killing all five on board.

The Cessna 180 landed on railroad tracks running parallel to the Birchwood airport in Chugiak, about 32 kilometres north of Anchorage, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said in an email to The Associated Press.

Chugiak, Alaska

Anchorage Police spokeswoman Marlene Lammers confirmed that five people perished.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board has investigators at the crash site. The cause of the crash is not known.

"We don't know what stage of flight the aircraft was in when it crashed," Gregor said. Other officials at the scene reported it appeared the plane had just taken off.

A witness who works near the airport, Joe Rinehart, didn't see the crash but saw the flames.

"All it was was wingtips, a tail and a smashed engine. There was nothing left — there was no way to survive that," he told the Anchorage Daily News.

Names of the victims have not been released. The plane's tail number also won't be released until next-of-kin have been notified.