LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Comair's attorneys have asked a judge to
sort out their case against the Federal Aviation Administration before a trial begins that will determine negligence for the 2006 plane crash that killed 49 people.
In a legal brief, the airline asked that its case against the federal government be moved up to June - two months before the rest of the liability case heads to trial.
The airline argues that the FAA, which runs the Lexington control tower, was partly responsible for the crash because only one controller was on duty, and that controller had his back turned when the jet took off from a too-short runway.
FAA's attorneys responded this week that it would be impossible to have a trial focusing just on the government's responsibility without considering the entire case. The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the accident and blamed it largely on the pilots, who steered the plane onto an unlit general aviation runway that was too short for a proper takeoff.
"Comair's request to slice off one aspect of this factual sequence for a separate trial simply makes no sense," the FAA responded.
Several families of crash victims have reached financial settlements with the airline, but Comair contends it has encountered a "logjam" in seeking more settlements. That would change if the trial against FAA is moved up, Comair says.
In January, U.S. District Judge Karl Forester announced he was
setting an Aug. 4 trial date to decide which parties were at fault for the crash. That trial will also determine whether Comair must pay punitive damages, although the amount of those damages won't be set until several months later.
Comair has argued that the FAA and the airport are among those who should be held partly responsible. The case against the FAA was
somewhat delayed because, as an entity of the federal government,
Comair had to file a special waiver, which was denied. Now that matter is in front of Forester, along with the rest of the case.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)