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NDIrish9
08-28-2006, 05:30 AM
Very tragic, I'm sure the families of those affected could use a prayer.

RANDY IN INDY
08-28-2006, 06:48 AM
Absolutely. A terrible and tragic accident.

Blimpie
08-28-2006, 09:38 AM
I am glad that somebody started a thread on this event. Being as though the majority of the victims were also residents of Lexington, yesterday was a very tough day for this community.

Although Comair has yet to release an official flight manifest, many of the victim names have been released to the media. Personally, I have learned that one of the victims is a man that I previously worked with. He was on his way to the Gulf Coast with Habitat to build 17 houses for Katrina survivors.

This was a complete tragedy that should have been imminently preventable.

dman
08-28-2006, 09:40 AM
I have to believe that some air traffic controller's head is gonna' roll from this one. I read on the news that the airplane took off from the wrong runway. Though this could've potentially been a pilot error, it is ultimately the controller's responsibilty to make sure that the airplane is where it's supposed to be before clearing them for takeoff.

Sweetstop
08-28-2006, 10:05 AM
I am glad that somebody started a thread on this event. Being as though the majority of the victims were also residents of Lexington, yesterday was a very tough day for this community.

Although Comair has yet to release an official flight manifest, many of the victim names have been released to the media. Personally, I have learned that one of the victims is a man that I previously worked with . He was on his way to the Gulf Coast with Habitat to build 17 houses for Katrina survivors.

This was a complete tragedy that should have been imminently preventable.


My husband went to high school w/ and knew well the man you mentioned.

Blimpie
08-28-2006, 11:17 AM
My husband went to high school w/ and knew well the man you mentioned.Then your husband knows exactly what I mean when I say this:

Certain people die before their time and that is truly unfair. That being said, it should not have been Pat Smith's time to die. He was doing too many things for far too needy people. Of course, the way Pat looked at it, they weren't 'needy' people--they were just people who deserved it.

Blimpie
08-28-2006, 11:26 AM
I have to believe that some air traffic controller's head is gonna' roll from this one. I read on the news that the airplane took off from the wrong runway. Though this could've potentially been a pilot error, it is ultimately the controller's responsibilty to make sure that the airplane is where it's supposed to be before clearing them for takeoff.dman: I know you have quite a bit of aviation knowledge so I will defer to your judgement in the most general sense.

However, the transcriptions of the cockpit voice recorder will eventually reveal that the Comair pilot was only cleared to takeoff from the longer (7,000 FT) runway that morning. My question to you is this: After clearance is granted, are most ATCs actually required to make a VISUAL confirmation that the flight is doing what they were actually confirmed to do? If so, what does one do when the visibility is so limited that early in the morning? This shorter runway was almost exclusively used for general aviation flights that filed VFRs.

At that time of the morning, there was only one tower controller (as per the norm). Speculation is that once he/she cleared 5191 for takeoff, he/she began communications with other aircraft that were preparing to depart. Even IF he/she were able to ascertain that the flight was departing on the shorter (3,500 FT), I am not so sure that the pilot could have been notified with ample time to abort takeoff.

Blimpie
08-28-2006, 11:40 AM
Just when I was about 90% sure that award show producers were clueless nitwits who were out of touch with reality, somebody had to go out and seal the deal for me....There was literally no lapse in time separating the crash story coverage on our local NBC affiliate from the "Lost" gag that opened the Emmy broadcast. Simply unbelievable.

http://www.kentucky.com/mld/kentucky/15378425.htm


Emmys plane-crash spoof left LEX 18 manager 'horrified'
By Jamie Gumbrecht
HERALD-LEADER CULTURE WRITER

LEX 18 News ended an evening recap of yesterday's coverage of the Comair Flight 5191 crash for the live broadcast of the prime-time Emmy Awards. The annual TV awards show opened with shots of host Conan O'Brien bouncing inside a plane before it crashed on an island in a spoof of ABC's hit show Lost.

WLEX president and general manager Tim Gilbert, who was home watching the telecast with his family, said he was "stunned" by the introduction; if station managers had known about the intro before the broadcast, Lexington viewers wouldn't have seen it, he said.

"It was a live telecast -- we were completely helpless," Gilbert said of the Emmys. "By the time we began to react, it was over. At the station, we were as horrified as they were at home."

He said he'll complain to NBC, but he said an apology won't make up for insensitivity.

"They could have killed the opening and it wouldn't have hurt the show at all," Gilbert said. "We wish somebody had thought this through. It's somewhere between ignorance and incompetence."

Ltlabner
08-28-2006, 11:45 AM
I *think* ATC has to confirm that an aircraft they are clearing for takeoff is, in fact, on the correct runway when they issue the "cleared for takeoff" command. Bluegrass field is pretty small and IIRC the tower has a clear view of the ends of both runways in question. So they could have easily accertained the aircraft was on rwy 26 (which was unlit) instead of rwy 22 (which is fully lighted) visually as the weather was reported as "clear". But aiport enviornments can be very confusing at night with the large number of lights, signs and other information one has to absorb, process and act on (even at a relativley small field like LEX).

OTOH, ATC may have issued clearance for takeoff while the aircraft was taxiing and ATC *possibly* didn't assure that the aircraft was in the correct position on the airfield. ATC may have also issued a clearance to take off that did not require the Pilot in Command to "taxi in position and hold" (meaning the aircraft moves onto the rwy, comes to a complete stop and waits for hte next ATC command) which isn't unrealistic since the airport would have had minimal traffic movements at that time. The PIC may have elected to roll from the taxiway onto the runway and commence the takeoff without any hesitation. Thus, the ATC would not have had time to notice the error if their attentions were elsewhere.

At the end of the day, however, the PIC has absoulte responsibity to ensure the safety of his aircraft prior to any manuver. If ATC says "dive your aircraft into the ground" the PIC can choose to ignore the command.

Rwy 26 is both unlit and is only 75' wide as opposed to rwy 22 which is 150' wide and lighted. So some visual cues, even though it was dark, were available to the crew to help them realize something was amiss. But again, it was dark, raining and there may have been other factors possibly distracting the crew all culminating in them pulling onto rwy 26 instead of rwy 22. The entry point of both rwys are fairly close to each other so it may have "seemed" like they had taxied far enough to be on the correct runway.

My guess is this accident, like most, is the result of a chain of events that culminated in the tragic loss of life. If the ATC wasn't taking a smoke break, if the co-pilot wasn't timid, if the pilot wasn't dislexic, if a flock of birds didn't distract the crew, etc etc. (that's just an example, not the facts in question).

BTW, I am NOT a pilot nor pretend to be. So I don't claim that all of the above is correct information, just my best understanding.

letsgojunior
08-28-2006, 11:47 AM
Just when I was about 90% sure that award show producers were clueless nitwits who were out of touch with reality, somebody had to go out and seal the deal for me....There was literally no lapse in time separating the crash story coverage on our local NBC affiliate from the "Lost" gag that opened the Emmy broadcast. Simply unbelievable.

http://www.kentucky.com/mld/kentucky/15378425.htm

What's even more stunning and insensitive is that the "Lost" plane crash occurred over two years ago on the show. Even since then it's been about living on the island. It was totally unnecessary to portray the plane crash as part of any sort of gag.

I'm just heartbroken over this. I was reading articles this morning about how the incorrect runway had cracks in it and was not properly lit. I'm wondering if the pilot simply couldn't see things at that hour of the morning.

Some of the stories are so incredibly sad. Apparently a couple on the plane just got married the night before. A father going to see his kids. It really really hits home.

Blimpie
08-28-2006, 11:58 AM
What's even more stunning and insensitive is that the "Lost" plane crash occurred over two years ago on the show. Even since then it's been about living on the island. It was totally unnecessary to portray the plane crash as part of any sort of gag.

I'm just heartbroken over this. I was reading articles this morning about how the incorrect runway had cracks in it and was not properly lit. I'm wondering if the pilot simply couldn't see things at that hour of the morning.

Some of the stories are so incredibly sad. Apparently a couple on the plane just got married the night before. A father going to see his kids. It really really hits home.That would be John Hooker and his new wife Scarlett. He was a former pitcher for the University of Kentucky. He also signed a FA contract with the White Sox a few years back prior to calling it quits and settling down.

Brandon Webb was his roommate while at UK and learned about the accident from Keith Madison (former UK baseball coach) who had attended the wedding some 12 hours before the crash occurred.

Blimpie
08-28-2006, 12:14 PM
I *think* ATC has to confirm that an aircraft they are clearing for takeoff is, in fact, on the correct runway when they issue the "cleared for takeoff" command. Bluegrass field is pretty small and IIRC the tower has a clear view of the ends of both runways in question. So they could have easily accertained the aircraft was on rwy 26 (which was unlit) instead of rwy 22 (which is fully lighted) visually as the weather was reported as "clear". But aiport enviornments can be very confusing at night with the large number of lights, signs and other information one has to absorb, process and act on (even at a relativley small field like LEX).

OTOH, ATC may have issued clearance for takeoff while the aircraft was taxiing and ATC *possibly* didn't assure that the aircraft was in the correct position on the airfield. ATC may have also issued a clearance to take off that did not require the Pilot in Command to "taxi in position and hold" (meaning the aircraft moves onto the rwy, comes to a complete stop and waits for hte next ATC command) which isn't unrealistic since the airport would have had minimal traffic movements at that time. The PIC may have elected to roll from the taxiway onto the runway and commence the takeoff without any hesitation. Thus, the ATC would not have had time to notice the error.

At the end of the day, however, the PIC has absoulte responsibity to ensure the safety of his aircraft prior to any manuver. If ATC says "dive your aircraft into the ground" the PIC can choose to ignore the command.

Rwy 26 is both unlit and is only 75' wide as opposed to rwy 22 which is 150' wide and lighted. So some visual cues, even though it was dark, were available to the crew to help them realize something was amiss.

My guess is this accident, like most, is the result of a chain of events that culminated in the tragic loss of life. If the ATC wasn't taking a smoke break, if the co-pilot wasn't timid, if the pilot wasn't dislexic, if a flock of birds didn't distract the crew, etc etc. (that's just an example, not the facts in question).

BTW, I am NOT a pilot nor pretend to be. So I don't claim that all of the above is correct information, just my best understanding.I know that there are several safeguards that are in place to ensure that the pilot does not enter the wrong runway. Even the runway numbers correspond with the actual "heading" of the departure--which is always supposed to be one of the final pilot confirmations prior to "throttling up."

To further frustrate things, all of the longer runway (22) and part of the shorter runway (26) had just finished being resurfaced last week. In an effort to improve safety, one of the main (previously used) taxiways was no longer in use after this reconstruction because that area was now designated as a safety buffer zone. Because of this redesign, the pilot was asked to take a different route to enter the longer runway. Officials seem to think that this MAY have added to pilot confusion perhaps. Nevertheless, all runway identifications were newly placed with bright thermoplastic markings. Lights were all working in areas where there were installed (because runway 26 was mostly used for general aviation, it did not have the same amount of lights on it than did runway 22).

Until the CVR transcripts are released, we will never know the precise factors that led to this very experienced pilot erring on such a fatal decision.

Ltlabner
08-28-2006, 12:31 PM
Until the CVR transcripts are released, we will never know the precise factors that led to this very experienced pilot erring on such a fatal decision.

Yes, it's usally a chain of events, instead of one sigular event that casues things to go horribly wrong like this.

Very, very sad.

dman
08-28-2006, 12:44 PM
Blimpie, Yes, ATC is "supposed" to make sure that the airplane that they cleared to taxi, take-off, or whatever they assigned for them to do are in fact doing it. Also, air carrier operators such as Comair, Delta etc. have different air-crews going in and out of , often times, unfamiliar airports. For that reason the FAA produces Airport Facility Directories (AFD's) which give Taxiway and Airport digrams. My guess would be that the winds were out of the southwest yesterday at LEX, so runways 22 and 26 would've been in use, and the tower would have had a clear view of both. Runway 22 was likely the assigned runway. It's very possible that the pilot came upon Runway 26 and thought that was Runway 22 instead. This is where it falls on the ATC folks. Before they actually give that aircraft clearance to takeoff, it was on them to make sure Comair 5191 was at the correct runway.
It's a two-way deal in situations like this. ATC issues instructions and the pilots read back the ATC's instructions for ATC to verify that the pilots do understand the instructions as given by ATC. Also, if a pilot becomes confused in an unfamiliar airport, ATC is more than willing to give "progressive taxi" to a pilot, meaning that they will give them turn by turn instructions to get them to their assigned runway, taxiway, or terminal parking area/gate. I've attached an airport diagram of Lexington to illustrate. It really isn't a hard airport to get around at.

3991

Blimpie
08-28-2006, 12:59 PM
Blimpie, Yes, ATC is "supposed" to make sure that the airplane that they cleared to taxi, take-off, or whatever they assigned for them to do are in fact doing it. Also, air carrier operators such as Comair, Delta etc. have different air-crews going in and out of , often times, unfamiliar airports. For that reason the FAA produces Airport Facility Directories (AFD's) which give Taxiway and Airport digrams. My guess would be that the winds were out of the southwest yesterday at LEX, so runways 22 and 26 would've been in use, and the tower would have had a clear view of both. Runway 22 was likely the assigned runway. It's very possible that the pilot came upon Runway 26 and thought that was Runway 22 instead. This is where it falls on the ATC folks. Before they actually give that aircraft clearance to takeoff, it was on them to make sure Comair 5191 was at the correct runway.
It's a two-way deal in situations like this. ATC issues instructions and the pilots read back the ATC's instructions for ATC to verify that the pilots do understand the instructions as given by ATC. Also, if a pilot becomes confused in an unfamiliar airport, ATC is more than willing to give "progressive taxi" to a pilot, meaning that they will give them turn by turn instructions to get them to their assigned runway, taxiway, or terminal parking area/gate. I've attached an airport diagram of Lexington to illustrate. It really isn't a hard airport to get around at.

3991Thanks for that, dman. I was kinda curious about the tower/pilot protocol--for lack of a better phrase. Because the recent reconstruction had altered the former taxiway route from the terminal to runway 22, the FAA had attempted to alleviate some of the potential pitfalls...apparently to no avail:

http://www.kentucky.com/mld/kentucky/15378428.htm



Posted on Mon, Aug. 28, 2006
Federal officials confirm pilot did not use correct runway
By Jim Warren, Beth Musgrave And Brandon Ortiz
HERALD-LEADER STAFF WRITERS

Federal authorities confirmed last night that preliminary information from a downed Comair jet showed the pilot took off from the wrong runway, causing the plane to crash near Blue Grass Airport yesterday.

Debbie Hersman, a National Transportation Safety Board member, said yesterday that "ground scars," or marks made by the plane as it crashed, and information from the cockpit voice recorder indicated that Delta Comair Flight 5191, which crashed shortly after 6 a.m. yesterday, took off on Runway 26, which is for use by smaller aircraft.

Hersman said yesterday that information obtained by the NTSB indicated that the pilot was cleared to take off on Runway 22, which is 7,000 feet long and designed for passenger jets. Runway 26 is only 3,500 feet long

Information obtained by the NTSB so far gave "reference to 22" alone, Hersman said.

Hersman said yesterday that the investigation was still in its early stages and that the investigative teams will be breaking up into smaller groups to analyze all aspects of this accident, one of the largest aviation accidents in Kentucky history. The plane's voice and data recorders were recovered and sent to Washington, D.C., yesterday.

Investigators were able to pull more than 32 minutes of voice recording from the cockpit recorder and were also able to mine information from the flight data recorder, which tracks information about the plane's movements.

The investigation is likely to focus on how and why the pilot took the wrong runway.

Blue Grass Airport recently went through a major repaving project, including all of runway 22 and portions of runway 26 where 22 and 26 intersect. Some pilots familiar with the airport also questioned whether there were enough air traffic controllers in the tower at 6 a.m.

Others raised questions about whether the plane's crew had enough sleep before take-off. The crew spent Saturday night in Lexington, said a spokeswoman from Comair. But she declined to say when crew members arrived or disclose the time of their last flight, saying that information was part of the federal investigation.

Airport officials said yesterday that they did not think that the new construction played a part in yesterday's accident. Blue Grass Airport's control tower was manned and in operation when the crash occurred at 6:07 a.m., said Mike Gobb, the airport's executive director.

Gobb said he didn't know how many people were on duty in the tower, but a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said that only one controller normally would be working at that time of day.

It was still relatively dark when the crash occurred.

Kathleen Bergen, an FAA spokeswoman, said the control tower was not required to have more staffing. She said there are virtually no flights from 3:30 to 5:30 a.m., and typically only 13 between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. "Traffic is extremely light," she said.

Gobb declined to speculate whether the tower would have been able to quickly determine that the plane was using the wrong runway. But many pilots said yesterday that one person in the tower might have been too busy to notice the problem.

David Katzman, airline transport pilot and an attorney in Michigan, said the control tower should have also had a ground controller guiding the airplanes.

"That single controller could be doing a lot of things," said Katzman, who has flown his personal jet into Blue Grass Airport. "... If they had one controller, they are short one."

Bergen said yesterday it will probably be several weeks before she can release the air traffic control recordings, which will provide answers to many lingering questions.

Gobb said the taxiing patterns were changed as a result of the new safety areas that Blue Grass Airport installed at both ends of the main runway.

One key change involved the closure of a small section of "Taxiway Alpha" that large planes previously had used to reach the end of the main runway nearest Versailles Road for takeoff. That taxiway section was closed Aug. 20, Gobb said. With the closure, planes were using a somewhat different route, executing a left-hand turn from another point on Taxiway Alpha to reach the main runway.

But, according to Gobb, the airport has a number of systems in place to direct pilots to the proper runways. He said these include blue and white lights which designate taxiways and active runways, signs, numbers and pavement markings.

Gobb also said pilots had been informed of the recent changes in taxiway routing at Blue Grass Airport. In addition, there is an automated radio system that pilots can tune to get such information.

Paul Czysz, professor emeritus of aerospace engineering at Saint Louis University, said that, based on pictures he had seen, the Comair jet would have been unable to gain enough altitude to clear the trees taking off from the 3,500-foot runway, and would have needed at least 5,200 feet to take off properly. Czysz said the plane would have just been lifting off the ground when the runway ended.

"Once he crossed the main runway and saw what the heck was going on, he probably knew he didn't have enough distance to stop," Czysz said. "The only thing you can do then is try to take off.

"Sometimes with the intersecting runways, pilots go down the wrong one," Czysz added. "It doesn't happen very often."

Pilots said yesterday that instruments should have shown the pilot that he was on the wrong runway. Names for runways are derived from compass indicators. When the plane prepared for takeoff from runway 26, its indicator would have read 260 degrees, 40 degrees off the correct course of runway 22.

Checking that compass indicator is the last thing a pilot does before takeoff, said Katzman, the lawyer from Michigan.

Once the pilots realized they were on the runway, it was probably too late for them to do anything, Katzman said. They had two options: slide off the runway or take to the air at too slow a speed.

"It's not a runway anybody ever thinks this airplane is going to be on," Katzman said.

Dr. Ray Garman, a student pilot and a former airport board member, noted that the numbers on the runways are large.

"It would be very hard to confuse them," Garman said.

According to FlightAware, an aviation Web site, this is not the first time a pilot has gotten confused at Blue Grass Airport. In 1993, an airline pilot reported that he almost took off from Runway 26 but the tower caught the error and canceled the takeoff. In an entry on FlightAware's Web site the pilot reported "poor visibility" and a "confusing runway intersection."

Ltlabner
08-28-2006, 01:38 PM
One key change involved the closure of a small section of "Taxiway Alpha" that large planes previously had used to reach the end of the main runway nearest Versailles Road for takeoff. That taxiway section was closed Aug. 20, Gobb said. With the closure, planes were using a somewhat different route, executing a left-hand turn from another point on Taxiway Alpha to reach the main runway.

It's amazing that when piloting large aircraft (even though the CRJ is relativley small) how easy it is to lose track of situational awareness. We've all done it in our cars where we sorta zone out and end up 2 exits down the road, or we are looking for a particular street and when we get to the one that looks or feels right we turn without really looking at the street sign. And we're not processing 1/1000th of information that commerical pilots are.

The other thing to consider is human factors and how they may have contributed to the accident. It may have "seemed" as though they taxied far enough to be at the correct rwy. It may have "felt" correct to turn left from the taxiway to the runway as that was what they were expecting. Perhaps they were looking for the newly paved runway and when they saw "dark pavement" they felt like they were in the right spot. Perhaps the PIC was in a hurry to maintain a schedule and was pushing himself to get going. Throw on top of this the ATC clearance ("hey, the tower said we were good to go, so we must be good to go) and it's a reciepe for disaster.

Years of experience, thousands of hours of training, millions of dollars of equipment can all get sub-conciously "over-ruled" when a certian set of circumstances portrays itself to the pilot and he/she is fooled into thinking it's the correct course of action.

It only magnifies the tradgedy when such seemingly minor events, in the face of everything designed to thwart accidents, can cause the horrific loss of life when an airliner crashes.

dman
08-28-2006, 02:17 PM
Some airports are confusing to get around at, especially those with intersecting runways. Personally, I've went as far as taking all of my airport diagrams and laminating them. Then, whenever I'm at a particualar airport, once ATC gives me taxi instructions I'll take out a red china marker and actually map out the route they gave me on my diagram. It's safe and it saves you a lot of embarrasment.

The cockpit truly is one of the places that all the little things compound to really come back and bite you, sometimes with fatal results.

Ltlabner
08-29-2006, 08:14 AM
Repaving along the taxiway leading to both Runway 26 and 7,000-ft. Runway 22 resulted in changes in the route the aircraft took and was completed a week prior to the accident. Airport officials were not sure if the pilot of the doomed plane had been to the airport since the taxiway changes were made. Runway 26 is used primarily for general aviation and reportedly has signs and cracked concrete that differentiate it from 22. The taxiway crosses over the shorter runway to get to the main commercial runway.

This is a blurb from air transport world website (atwonline.com). It's plasuable that the taxiway changes caused confusion and when combined with other factors contributed to the accident.

Blimpie
08-29-2006, 08:59 AM
The NTSB is now reporting that the First Officer, who ended up being the sole survivor of the crash, was also the person in control of the aircraft at the time of the crash.

He now remains in a coma and may possibly lose one of his legs to amputation. Should he recover from his injuries, he will have a lifetime to question why it was he who was spared from death.

dman
08-29-2006, 09:41 AM
Blimpie and Swetstop, CDR Radio from Cedarville College did a nice story on the person you knew during their Impact News segment Monday afternoon. Here is a print version of what they ran:


Leading Volunteer for Habitat Among Plane Crash Victims
(Lexington Herald Leader) Pat Smith, Habitat for Humanity's national volunteer of the year in 2004, was among those killed in the crash of a Comair flight headed to Atlanta Sunday morning.

Smith, a member of Habitat for Humanity International's board of directors, was on his way back to Gulfport, Miss., on a Kentucky project that is building 13 houses on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for people displaced last year by Hurricane Katrina. Since the project launched in early August, Smith had made seven trips to Mississippi.

Smith headed up several Habitat projects in Ghana, sponsored by his church the Cathedral of Christ the King. He also built Habitat houses in Sri Lanka and in India, where he helped the rebuilding effort of a small village leveled by the tsunami in 2004.

Grant Phelps, executive director of Lexington Habitat, where Smith served on the board, said Smith had the vision and energy to get projects organized.

Smith's son-in-law Steve Combs said Pat loved helping other people and inspiring others to do good works.

Blimpie
08-29-2006, 12:49 PM
Thanks for posting that!

Ltlabner
08-29-2006, 01:03 PM
The [NTSB] member, Deborah Hersman, said that with the load it was carrying, the plane, a Bombardier Canadair jet, would have required 3,559 feet before the nose would swing upward, according to a calculation by the manufacturer. The runway was 3,500 feet long. However, the crew may not have begun the takeoff roll from the start of the pavement.

Ms. Hersman said the captain called for “rotation,’’ when the controls are used to lift the nose, but tire marks in the grass at the end of the runway showed the nose did not actually rise. The plane became airborne when it hit a berm 65 feet beyond the end of the runway; it struck the airport’s perimeter fence 390 feet beyond the runway, cleared a barbed wire fence about 920 feet off the end of the runway and struck trees beyond the fence.

There were no indications that crew members applied the brakes or the thrust reversers to slow down. The time from the beginning of the takeoff roll until impact was 29 seconds, and there was no warning from the lone tower controller on duty, Ms. Hersman said.

She also said that the runway they chose did not have its lights on; the runway they were supposed to use did have lights along the sides, although the center lights were out because it had been repaved days earlier. One of the pilots remarked during the takeoff roll that the runway lights were out, Ms. Hersman said. That would be the first indication that the crew might have known something was wrong.

This is from airliners.net and is a reposting of a NY Times article.


I've operated the CRJ out of KLEX many times in my career. I used to fly it for a different airline. I can vividly remember that area of the airport being very confusing. I can remember one time doing the takeoff brief and taxi checklist while taxiing out and seeing the hold short line for 26 and thinking that I had already crossed it and was holding short of 22. Upon stopping and noticing that something was amiss, I checked my airport diagram and realized that I wasn't where I thought I was. Further compounding this is the fact the KLEX tower has a habit of clearing you for takeoff on 22 before you ever reach runway 26. That intersection of taxiway A and 26 is much wider than the surrounding taxiways. The red runway threshold identification signs are for 26 are spread out quite a ways from the taxiway making them difficult to see.

This is a blurb from the airliners.net formum from a poster claiming to be a commerical airline pilot. Take that for what it's worth.

It seems that the picture developing is that the crew expected the correct rwy of 22 but mistakenly entered rwy 26. It was dark and rainy which made visablity poor and the chance of noticing that they were on old asphpalt (rwy 26) instead of new (rwy 22) very remote. They were expecting new and shiny runway but were on an old, dark and wet runway....but at night and when wet its very difficult to tell the difference between the two especially when in a cockpit behind the windshield.

*IF* the tower cleared them for takeoff while they were taxing and they commenced takeoff from a rolling start they may not have had time to notice the error. Tragically, taking off from the rolling start would extend the distance needed to become airborne along with eliminating the extra time it would have allowed for cross checks on instruments and *possibly* notice the error.

Additionally, the centerline runway lights on rwy 22 were inopperable. When they got to rwy 26 (where the side runway lights were inopperable) they may have mistaken the lack of lights for being in the correct location because that's what their brains were expecting to see. They were expecting some runway lights to be out so in the hurried atmosphere of taking off the difference between lights down the center of the runway and on the side of the runway may have been missed.

Sweetstop
08-29-2006, 02:04 PM
Blimpie and Swetstop, CDR Radio from Cedarville College did a nice story on the person you knew during their Impact News segment Monday afternoon. Here is a print version of what they ran:


Leading Volunteer for Habitat Among Plane Crash Victims
(Lexington Herald Leader) Pat Smith, Habitat for Humanity's national volunteer of the year in 2004, was among those killed in the crash of a Comair flight headed to Atlanta Sunday morning.

Smith, a member of Habitat for Humanity International's board of directors, was on his way back to Gulfport, Miss., on a Kentucky project that is building 13 houses on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for people displaced last year by Hurricane Katrina. Since the project launched in early August, Smith had made seven trips to Mississippi.

Smith headed up several Habitat projects in Ghana, sponsored by his church the Cathedral of Christ the King. He also built Habitat houses in Sri Lanka and in India, where he helped the rebuilding effort of a small village leveled by the tsunami in 2004.

Grant Phelps, executive director of Lexington Habitat, where Smith served on the board, said Smith had the vision and energy to get projects organized.

Smith's son-in-law Steve Combs said Pat loved helping other people and inspiring others to do good works.

One of the good ones. It's an awful shame. Thanks, dman.

Ltlabner
08-29-2006, 04:01 PM
http://www.courier-journal.com/assets/B239280829.JPG

Here's a link to a Lexington Courier Journal diagram showing the confusing (IMO) layout of the taxiways and runways.

Apparently there is also some confusion over the charts the pilots were using. These are "road maps" of the different airports. They are issued with a certian effective date (such as effective from April 1 to August 31st, 2006) so they are kept up to date with all the various airport changes.

There is some speculation that if they were using the wrong charts (especially since the taxiway changes were very new) they might have thought they were on the right runway because they "went to the end and turned left" not realizing the taxiway changes put them onto the wrong runway.

None of this excuses the pilots from not verifying they were on the wrong runway since the absoulte responsibility for the aircraft and passengers safety rests on their shoulders. But it does go a small way in explaining why such a horrific mistake could happen.

Blimpie
08-30-2006, 09:21 AM
Hard to believe this man was able to search the wreckage all day without revealing the fact his sister was a passenger on the flight....


Posted on Wed, Aug. 30, 2006

Coroner did his duty knowing sister on plane
FELT HE COULD DO MORE GOOD AT CRASH SITE THAN WORRYING
By Jennifer Hewlett
HERALD-LEADER STAFF WRITER

Bill Demrow had a tough decision to make Sunday morning as he drove to meet other members of a state team who were preparing to recover bodies from the wreckage of Comair Flight 5191.

"I had to decide in my own mind, more or less pray about it and decide, 'Do I keep going or do I turn around?' " he said yesterday.

He kept going and later worked for hours, pulling many of the 49 victims from charred remains of the plane, knowing all the while that his sister and brother-in-law were on board.

"I didn't tell anybody what I knew. I knew if I did they'd make me go home," said Demrow, Lincoln County's coroner for the past 26 years and a member of the Kentucky Coroner/Medical Examiner State Mass Fatality Response Team that responded to the crash.

Bobbie Sue Demrow Benton and her husband, Jesse Clark Benton, were on their way to Aruba, a 50th birthday gift to Bobbie Sue from her husband.

Demrow has dealt with death all his life. He and Bobbie Sue and their four other siblings grew up camping out, playing hide-and-seek and working in a Lincoln County cemetery where their father, Jake Demrow, was a grave digger.

Bill Demrow and others in the state mass fatality response team, an elite group with about a dozen first responders from across the state, worked in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck.

"We moved about 350 bodies in seven days. We were the first people to move bodies in New Orleans," he said, adding that the team got praise nationally for the job they did there.

"You have to be able to respond, no excuses, no delay, always every time, every day."

And so Demrow decided he had to work the Lexington plane crash scene. His fellow coroners would have done the same thing, he said.

"I did far more good for my family doing that than I would have being back here and not knowing what was going on," he said.

"I was actively, physically involved in the body retrieval from the wreckage. As I did that, my mind and a lot of my actions continually focused on that my sister wore braces," he said. "I was focusing on braces.

"I never found them."

He said that part of him hoped that his loved ones' remains were among those he took from the plane, and that another part of him hoped they weren't.

"I know now that they were seated in Row 7," he said. He thinks some of the bodies he retrieved were in that area.

Demrow got the call to meet team members in Frankfort about 7 a.m. Sunday and was on his way within 15 minutes. He knew his sister and brother-in-law were flying out of Lexington's Blue Grass Airport that morning, but he said, "I never made the connection in my mind."

Demrow's wife, Debbie, did. She informed him after finding out the Bentons' flight number from their children.

Demrow eventually did tell Mike Wilder of Perryville, deputy coordinator of the recovery team, that he had family members on the plane.

Wilder said, "He told me real quick not to open my mouth about it, that he wanted to be there, that if it were my sister, I'd probably do the same thing.

"He did extremely well. I worked by him all day long," Wilder said. "He was very professional all day. I have all of the admiration in the world for him. It just took a tremendous amount of courage and stamina. The conditions we were working under were just horrible."

Demrow said his sister was a devout Christian who was "so involved in her community and church."

"She'll be buried in the cemetery we grew up in," he said, referring to Buffalo Springs Cemetery in Stanford, where the Demrow children had helped their father with mowing and weeding.

"We grew up very poor. We didn't have a whole lot. But everybody knew the value of work," he said.

Demrow said he and his brother-in-law, a retired Marine, rode motorcycles together.

On Monday, Demrow hand-carried the Bentons' dental records to the State Central Laboratory in Frankfort, where the bodies from the crash were taken, thinking it might speed up the process of identifying the Bentons' remains.

He knew better than to ask if he could help out.

"They wouldn't let me at that point. They already knew," he said.

dman
08-30-2006, 09:40 AM
I was at the scene of a fatal crash in Perry County in December of 2001 where the coroner's son and a lifelong friend of his son were killed. Similar situation, though not on quite as large of a scale.

Ltlabner
01-17-2007, 04:54 PM
Well, the transcrips of the cockpit conversations were released today. Here's a link (http://www.kentucky.com/multimedia/kentucky/0117ntsbrelease/361245.pdf) to the transcript of the cockpit conversations from the time the pilots entered the aircaft until impact.

There's a fair amount of non-pertinate conversation while they are starting their basic checklists. The pilot brefing at 5:56:14.0 seems non-standard and rushed to me but I don't know what the Comair SOP is so it's hard to say if this would be conisdered standard or not.

The real nugget is at 5:56:49.9 (pg 25). The co-pilot (the one actually performing the take off at the time of the accident) makes the comment "came in the other night it was like lights are out all over the place". So it would appear that when they inadvertanly turned onto runway 26, which had no lights on the side of the runway, it may not have seemed out of place because mentally they might have expected some lights to be out.

There's more non-pertinate conversation as the pilots prepare to taxi and while taxing. Unfortunatley, they had to taxi past the end of rwy 26 to get to the correct rwy 22. Instead of continuing, they turned left onto rwy 26. Did the non-pertinate conversation play a role in the accident? I would say yes, but to what degree (if any) will obviously be decided by the FAA.

Experience tells me, however, that lots of extranious chatter in the cockpit is often included when the FAA atributes the cause of an accident to be, in part, due to pilot error. Non-standard procedures is another favorite for the wide ranging "pilot error" cause.

It will still be a while before the NTSB issues their final report and the FAA assigns blame. It's such a shame that momentary lapses of concentration, while benign in most jobs, are deadly when they happen in the cockpit of a transport aircraft.

Redsland
01-17-2007, 06:04 PM
It's such a shame that momentary lapses of concentration, while benign in most jobs, are deadly when they happen in the cockpit of a transport aircraft.
That is the absolute truth.

I remember an occasion twenty or thirty years ago in which a pilot decided to use the lavatory, which was not a problem, since the plane was on autopilot. So the pilot takes his headset off, gets up, and puts his headset down in such a way as to accidentally and unknowingly click off the autopilot. Then he left the flight deck. At that point the plane began to slowly lose altitude, and you can guess the rest. (Reassuring note: this can't happen anymore.)

Sometimes pilots land just fine but forget to deploy the spoilers and fail to stop before running off the end of the runway, across a busy highway, and into a gas station.

Sometimes pilots get cleared to use the left-hand runway of a parallel pair, but line up on the right one instead. When the right one is closed for repairs and littered with construction equipment, your takeoff roll becomes bumpy indeed.

I was reading just last week about a commercial carrier that landed--not on the assigned runway--but on a parallel taxiway. If any car, truck, bus, plane, or worker had happened to be anywhere along that entire mile-plus-long stretch of pavement, the results would have been tragic.

In the case under discussion here, a simple glance at the compass prior to takeoff might have averted disaster.

Such small lapses. Right vs. left. A single missed item on a very long checklist. If I forget milk, big deal. If you forget flaps...

And the thing is, once things start going south, there is often very little time to correct the problem before a cascade effect kicks in. Pilots don't usually have 40 minutes to troubleshoot a runaway trim tab, for example. Fortunately, experience and training prevent many of these occurances from taking place or getting out of hand. But not always.

Ltlabner
01-17-2007, 06:26 PM
Such small lapses. Right vs. left. A single missed item on a very long checklist. If I forget milk, big deal. If you forget flaps...

Fortunately, experience and training prevent many of these occurances from taking place or getting out of hand. But not always.

I am facinated by the human factors elements in commerical airline accidents. While it's usually a chain of events that leads to the disaster, the chain is often constructed of small, insignicant events that by themselves can't bring down an airliner.

Airline disasters are repleate with crew members bringing their habbits, personality types, prejudices, preconcieved notions and failings to the cockpit.

A captain is used to taking off without clearance because he spends most of his time in a simulator and two 747's slam into each other. A crew has transposed their cordinates on their flight planning computer and expects to be in place A instead of place B. Because B "looks" like A they convince themselves that are ok and drive a DC-10 into the side of a mountain. A tiny lightbulb burns out and distracts the crew which desposits their L-1011 in the everglades. Landing gear indicators don't go off and a different crew runs their DC-8 out of gas trying to identify the problem.

The real shame of the Comair 5191 accident is the captain, who presumidly had the experience to guide his first-officer and keep him out of trouble, was seemingly distracted by his running monologe about non-pertinate matters.

Heath
01-17-2007, 07:00 PM
Checking the map of Blue Grass Airport - one is wondering if the shortened runway will be extended as part of an FAA "grant" to "upgrade" the facilities.

Ltlabner
01-17-2007, 07:44 PM
Checking the map of Blue Grass Airport - one is wondering if the shortened runway will be extended as part of an FAA "grant" to "upgrade" the facilities.

My guess would be no. I'm going from memory so I might be off here, but runway 26 is a bit landlocked. Blocked on one end by a parking lot and the airport property is blocked in by a horse farm of some sort off the other end of the runway (actually, its on/near this farm where the wreckage of 5191 was strewn). I don't think there is enough room to extend it from it's aprox 3,500 foot length to a length safely usuable by jet transports.

Also, IIRC rwy 26 is pretty narrow. I'd guess that it would have to be widened for greater than 30 passenger aircraft use.

They might, however, use some of that money to clarify the taxiway markings and other signage to avoid further confusion.

George Foster
01-17-2007, 09:54 PM
Maybe I'm callous, but I think these guys in the cockpit were stooges. To my knowledge, every commercial runway in America has lights. For the co-pilot to say, "that's weird...this runway has no lights," and for the pilot to say, "ya," is just mind blowing. The air traffic control's recorded conversation with the plane cleared them for the right runway. They took the wrong one....there are only 2 runways. I guess we should look at the glass half full, and be glad that "dumb and dumber" did not graduate to larger commerical airlines and kill like 350 people.

Redsland
01-17-2007, 10:11 PM
I guess we should look at the glass half full, and be glad that "dumb and dumber" did not graduate to larger commerical airlines and kill like 350 people.
Regional airlines like Comair are often feeders for the big guys. So if there are stooges in the regionals, some of them will end up flying you around eventually.


The air traffic control's recorded conversation with the plane cleared them for the right runway. They took the wrong one.
That's where I would guess the problem arose. The tower cleared them for runway two-six; the pilot agreed; the plane came upon a runway labeled two-something, and away we go. Absent-mindedness, perhaps. Distracted, maybe.

They were just one number off, but it made all the difference.

vaticanplum
01-17-2007, 10:22 PM
I remember an occasion twenty or thirty years ago in which a pilot decided to use the lavatory, which was not a problem, since the plane was on autopilot. So the pilot takes his headset off, gets up, and puts his headset down in such a way as to accidentally and unknowingly click off the autopilot. Then he left the flight deck. At that point the plane began to slowly lose altitude, and you can guess the rest. (Reassuring note: this can't happen anymore.)

Uh, after reading your entire post, I would like to know why. Whatever the reason, I'm going to have to say it over and over to myself next time I fly, as I wash down a couple of vicodin with 16 gin and tonics.

Redsland
01-17-2007, 10:26 PM
The switch has been covered by one of those red flippy things.

:all_cohol

vaticanplum
01-17-2007, 10:32 PM
Dude, you're kidding, right?

RFS62
01-17-2007, 10:34 PM
Dude, you're kidding, right?



Don't underestimate the red flippy thing.

Redsland
01-17-2007, 10:49 PM
Dude, you're kidding, right?
Nope.
http://www.waytekwire.com/toggle%20switch%20cover%20web.jpg
That was the immediate solution, anyway. Since then some cockpits have gone to dials, though, or put the autopilot controls in the "glass cockpit" interface (touchscreens and so forth, usually backed up by computers that scream bloody murder if anything seems off).http://www.aerospace-technology.com/projects/eclipse-avi/images/4.jpg

Ltlabner
01-17-2007, 11:22 PM
That's where I would guess the problem arose. The tower cleared them for runway two-six; the pilot agreed; the plane came upon a runway labeled two-something, and away we go. Absent-mindedness, perhaps. Distracted, maybe.

They were just one number off, but it made all the difference.

Actually the tower cleared them to the correct rwy 22. They made the wrong turn onto 26. Here's a link (http://www.faa.gov/data_statistics/accident_incident/comair_tapes/media/tower_transcript.pdf) to the transcripts from the tower communications. Note page 5 at 1002:04 the tower clears them to rwy 22. Comair 5191 (noted as COM191 on this transcript) reads back the correct runway (again rwy 22).

I agree that being distracted played some sort of role in this accident (based on the facts available at this time). Bluegrass field isn't all that big so the time to taxi from the gate to the runway isn't very long. In this time the pilots have a myrid of check lists and other duties to perform. Yet, the captain especially kept talking about non-flight related subjects which can't do much for cockpit discipline.

The first officer doesn't say much in the begining and then eventually starts chiming in. So you have a first officer who is now chatting and mixing in checklists (ie take off preperations) as he is taxing towards the runway and subsequent take off. And you have a captain who is a chatterbox and seems more interested in what is going with staffing issues instead of assisting the first officer.

Mix in a dark rainy morning, a confusing taxiway scheme and incorrect situational picture reinforced by the missing rwy lights and you have an accident. Unfortunatly, in the case, 49 people paid the price.

I don't know if I'd call the pilots stooges. Accidents caused by pilot error (and there has been no offical determination as to the cause of this accident) tend to leave the impression that the pilots were bumbling idiots. It doesn't paint a picture of the hundreds of other flights where they may have flown competently. It may be they let their guard down this one time (I doubt it, but it's possible) and it bit them in the keister.

Then again, poor airmanship has a way of catching up with people.

George Foster
01-18-2007, 09:38 PM
Actually the tower cleared them to the correct rwy 22. They made the wrong turn onto 26. Here's a link (http://www.faa.gov/data_statistics/accident_incident/comair_tapes/media/tower_transcript.pdf) to the transcripts from the tower communications. Note page 5 at 1002:04 the tower clears them to rwy 22. Comair 5191 (noted as COM191 on this transcript) reads back the correct runway (again rwy 22).

I agree that being distracted played some sort of role in this accident (based on the facts available at this time). Bluegrass field isn't all that big so the time to taxi from the gate to the runway isn't very long. In this time the pilots have a myrid of check lists and other duties to perform. Yet, the captain especially kept talking about non-flight related subjects which can't do much for cockpit discipline.

The first officer doesn't say much in the begining and then eventually starts chiming in. So you have a first officer who is now chatting and mixing in checklists (ie take off preperations) as he is taxing towards the runway and subsequent take off. And you have a captain who is a chatterbox and seems more interested in what is going with staffing issues instead of assisting the first officer.

Mix in a dark rainy morning, a confusing taxiway scheme and incorrect situational picture reinforced by the missing rwy lights and you have an accident. Unfortunatly, in the case, 49 people paid the price.

I don't know if I'd call the pilots stooges. Accidents caused by pilot error (and there has been no offical determination as to the cause of this accident) tend to leave the impression that the pilots were bumbling idiots. It doesn't paint a picture of the hundreds of other flights where they may have flown competently. It may be they let their guard down this one time (I doubt it, but it's possible) and it bit them in the keister.

Then again, poor airmanship has a way of catching up with people.

My uncle was a commericial airline pilot for 20 years with Eastern Airlines. He said the ONLY reason you have a co-pilot is so crap like this does not happen. He said it does not matter what runway was cleared for take off, if there was construction, etc. "You are in charge of that bird." We are not tallking about Atlanta International....this is Lexington. 2 freekin runways. a short one, a long one. One with lights, one that did not have lights. Pilot error...is being generous.

Ltlabner
01-18-2007, 10:14 PM
My uncle was a commericial airline pilot for 20 years with Eastern Airlines. He said the ONLY reason you have a co-pilot is so crap like this does not happen. He said it does not matter what runway was cleared for take off, if there was construction, etc. "You are in charge of that bird." We are not tallking about Atlanta International....this is Lexington. 2 freekin runways. a short one, a long one. One with lights, one that did not have lights. Pilot error...is being generous.

None of those factors excuse the pilots of not performing their duties and playing a role in the deaths of 49 people. Better cockpit discipline, following proper procedures, even being humble to ask for progressive taxi instructions. Any one of those actions would have likely prevented the accident.

But I would also argue all the factors do matter when considering how the accident event unfolded. Examining those factors can help us understand pilot behavior and perhaps prevent these sorts of accidents in the future.

In 5191 perhaps if the taxiway layout wasn't confusing the captains inscessant chatter would have been mearly an irritant to the copilot. Perhaps if the pilot wasn't talking so much, the copilot would have noticed the lack of lights sooner. Perhaps had the captain given a proper take off breif it would have focused the co-pilot and he would have been more dilligent. Perhaps if they wern't mentally conditioned to expect some lights to be out, they would have noticed that the wrong runway lights were missing from the picture. Perhaps had the co-pilot not given in to the peer pressure to deviate from prototcol the captain would have shut up and focused back on his duties.

None of these factors excuse their sadly all too common errors but they most certinally set the stage for the accident. Your uncle is correct, ultimate responsibility lies squarely on the captain and in this case it appears he played a major role (at least IMO and with these facts) in the accident. But chalking it up to two dunderhead pilots does a disservice to the process of learning (or in this case re-learning some basic truths) and improving airline saftey.

Yes, I am a total dork.