How Blue Grass Airport has changed since Flight 5191 crash

Published: Aug. 26, 2016 at 12:32 PM EDT
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Blue Grass Airport Executive Director Eric Frankl was working in Toledo when Comair 5191 crashed ten years ago, but he remembers.

"I know exactly where I was," Frankl said.

A lot of things are different now. On the morning of the accident, the main runway, 4-22, intersected with the shorter general aviation runway, 8-26. Comair 5191 lined up on the shorter runway instead of continuing across to line up on the longer runway.

"The visual cues just were missed," Frankl said.

In the years since the crash, the FAA implemented some changes at airports across the country.

The FAA now requires markers painted on the taxiway just before the airplane reaches a runway identifying which runway the airplane is approaching. Previously, there were signs off to the side of the taxiways.

The main runway and general aviation runway no longer intersect. There is a taxiway leading to the main runway and a separate taxiway leading to the shorter runway.

"This airport is not unlike several airports around the country that were built in World War II. A lot of them have that same crossing two or three runways at midfield, very common back then, and Lexington was no different," Frankl said.

The runway change had been in the works since before that day, but the crash really put a spotlight on it.

"I think the industry had already begun to realize that there was a way to avoid confusion and this airport was probably ahead of the curve from that perspective, unfortunately not ahead enough," Frankl said.

The FAA also found Blue Grass Airport's tower did not have enough controllers the morning of the crash. Only one air traffic controller was on duty. Because the airport performs both approach control and tower functions, they were supposed to have two controllers. An FAA report found that some facilities had misinterpreted verbal guidance about that policy. After the crash, the FAA formalized a written policy.

The way airplanes taxi across runways has changed. Controllers must now give pilots a specific clearance to taxi across another runway to get to their intended runway.

The history of aviation is dotted with horrible days like August 27, 2006. Each brings heartache for everyone involved. The hope is that each of those days can also teach lessons that will save lives down the road.