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Five people died in two separate plane crashes in northern Illinois Monday, including a former Eastern Airlines pilot who unsuccessfully sought $4 million from the airline for firing her after she underwent a sex-change operation.

Karen Ulane, 48, Aurora, was among three people killed when their vintage DC-3 crashed into a field about five miles southwest of DeKalb, said Barbara Dettmer of the Federal Aviation Administration. The other two victims were identified as Paul Killman, 56, Aurora, and Arthur L. Lutz, 72, the DeKalb County coroner's office said.The plane exploded and burst into flames upon impact, witnesses said.

Ulane, who was born Kenneth Ulane and was a decorated Vietnam War veteran, was involved in a five-year court battle with Eastern Airlines after being fired in 1980. The litigation finally ended in 1985 when the Supreme Court ruled the airline was justified in firing Ulane on the grounds his operation indicated psychological problems that constituted a possible danger to passengers.