Reality Check: Lessons learned since flight 5191 crash

If you fly out of Blue Grass Airport, or if you are a pilot, navigating the runways today is vastly different compared to August, 2006 when Comair Flight 5191 crashed.

Airport Executive Director Eric Frankl says, "As you can see now, obviously these two runways are separated, they don't cross one another."

Like many airports planned and built just after World War II, Blue Grass Airport had runways that crossed each other. When Comair Flight 5191 took off on the shorter runway, 2-6, they actually crossed over the longer runway, 2-2.

Frankl says, "In fact, Lexington used to have a third runway that crossed in this direction here, and there were three runways that crossed. That was not uncommon in World War II days. We would not build airports in that way just to avoid that confusion."

Blue Grass Airport already had plans to get rid of the short runway before Comair crashed. Today a new, longer runway, 9-27, has replaced the one 5191 used. The newer one does not cross the main runway, making it harder for a pilot to use the wrong runway like the Comair crew.

Don Evans, veteran pilot, says "The changes that have been made to this airport, make this particular scenario really not a possibility because of the way you have to get to the new runway. But nothing is fail safe."

Although it was not a factor in the Comair crash, changes have been made in how pilots take-off. They are no longer allowed to taxi into position right behind another plane cleared for take-off. The second plane must stop and wait at what's called the hold short line, not on the same runway as the plane about to take off.

"It slows things down a little bit, it gives the air traffic controller a chance to get a better picture of what's going on," Evans explains.

The investigation into the Comair crash revealed the captain and first officer were not focused totally on flying as they taxied away from the gate, talking repeatedly about topics that had nothing to do with safely getting the plane off the ground and that they failed to cross check and verify the plane was on the right runway.

Because of the Comair crash, it is now required training and standard operating procedure for the cockpit crew to double check their position during taxi. Officer Don says the Comair crash serves as a reminder to every pilot across the country.

"No matter how well you're trained, no matter how many hours you have flown, no matter how good you think you are, one simple choice could make the difference. Because like in this case, they had two choices to make, and the wrong choice was made, for whatever reason. And a lot of people lost their lives."


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