|AIRPORT TAXI ROUTE CHANGE BEFORE CRASH
August 28, 2006
By Jeffrey McMurray
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The taxi route for commercial jets using Blue Grass Airport's main runway was altered a week before Comair Flight 5191 took the wrong runway and crashed, killing all but one of the 50 people aboard, the airport's director said Monday.
Both the old and new taxiways cross over the shorter general aviation runway where the commuter jet tried to take off early Sunday, Blue Grass Airport Executive Director Michael Gobb told The Associated Press.
The runway repaving was completed late on the previous Sunday, Gobb said. It wasn't clear if the Comair pilots aboard Flight 5191 had been there since the change. Comair operates that regular 6 a.m. weekend flight to Atlanta from Lexington, but another commuter airline takes over that commute during the week.
"It's slightly different than it used to be," said Charlie Monette, president of Aero-Tech flight school based at the airport. "Could there have been some confusion associated with that? That's certainly a possibility."
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash and could not immediately be reached for comment.
Conversations between the plane's cockpit and the person staffing the control tower before dawn Sunday morning mentioned only the airport's main commercial strip, Runway 22, NTSB member Debbie Hersman said earlier Monday.
Somehow, the commuter jet ended up on the airport's other runway instead, Runway 26 _ a cracked surface meant for small planes that was much too short for Comair's twin-engine jet.
What followed was the worst U.S. plane disaster since 2001.
The pilots tried to lift off, but the plane clipped trees, then quickly crashed in a field and burst into flames, killing everyone aboard but a critically injured co-pilot who was pulled from the cracked cockpit.