Lexington Herald-Leader
September 12, 2006
By Steve Lannen and Michelle Ku

Pilots on Comair Flight 5191 were given charts that did not reflect renovations to the runways at Lexington Blue Grass Airport.

On the day of the crash, Comair pilots were provided charts of the runways that were last updated Jan. 27, Comair spokeswoman Kate Marx said.

Whether the January diagram was accurate or inaccurate the National Transportation Safety Board would review, Marx said.

In August, a week before the crash of Comair Flight 5191, Blue Grass Airport repaved its runway and closed the taxiway connection that planes normally used to reach the main runway. Information regarding changes in signage, markings or construction work at Blue Grass have been published to pilots through “Notices to Airmen,” known as NOTAMs, airport spokesman Brian Ellestad said.

NOTAMs are attached to pilots’ flight-release information and can be accessed by tuning into a radio frequency to get recorded messages from the air-control tower, Ellestad said.

Marx said any NOTAM sent out between chart updates would have been sent to Comair crew members.

“It is standard operating procedure for all Comair pilots to review all pertinent information,” she said.

An updated version of the airport’s chart reflecting the airport renovations was released Friday.

However, the updated chart does not reflect the runway shift completed the weekend of Aug. 19, when the runway was shifted 325 feet to the southwest. The map also does not indicate that a taxiway connector leading to the main runway had been closed.

Mike Gobb, Blue Grass Airport’s executive director, said pilots would have been notified of the closed taxiway connector through a NOTAM.

In a warning issued by its flight-standards department on Friday, Comair warned its pilots to use extreme caution at Blue Grass Airport because “published airport diagrams do not accurately reflect actual airport signage and markings.”

Comair’s warning was issued two weeks after Flight 5191 crashed, killing 49 of the 50 people on board. The plane took off from the wrong runway, a general aviation strip that was too short for the regional jet.

The charts are created by the National Aeronautical Charting Office, a branch of the Federal Aviation Administration. They are provided to Comair through Jeppesen, a Colorado-based company that interprets the agency’s information.

A spokesman for Jeppesen said this morning the company is conducting an internal audit to determine when the company received information about the Lexington airport’s renovations.

After a crash, it’s standard procedure for Jeppesen to review all material and information it released about the airport, company spokesman Eric Anderson said.

Usually, the FAA provides source information to Jeppesen and the charting office, Anderson said. “When that arrived to us, we’re still looking into it and trying to determine when we received that (and) why we didn’t get the updated information out,” he said.

Typically, information is posted quickly online, and charts are printed in about two weeks, when the company learns of changes to airports, he said.

An FAA spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.