Commuter Plane Crew Evidently Used Wrong Runway

Preliminary evidence shows that the crew of a commuter jet that crashed moments after takeoff early Sunday morning at Blue Grass International Airport in Lexington, Ky. used a short runway, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Debbie Hersman told reporters Sunday evening.

The airport has two runways, a shorter 3,500-foot runway intended only for daylight use by general aviation and a longer 7,500-foot runway intended for commercial flights.

The fully loaded plane would have required about 5,000 feet in order to get airborne.

From the evidence gathered so far, Hersman said, “this aircraft took off from runway 26,” which is the shorter, general aviation runway.

What’s not clear is why or how the plane ended up on the shorter of the airport’s two runways.

The flight voice and data recorders were retrieved and sent to the NTSB lab in Washington, D.C. where analysis is already underway that could answer some of the questions.

The plane’s co-pilot was the only survivor of the crash in which 47 passengers and two other crewmembers died just before dawn Sunday.

Comair Flight 5191 was bound for Atlanta.

Comair says the flight crew was experienced and had been flying that airplane for some time, and the plane's maintenance was up to date.

According to Comair President Don Bornhorst, the regional jet was purchased in January 2001 and had undergone recent maintenance.

Bornhorst said his company will work closely with the Federal Aviation Administration and NTSB as the agenices conduct a full investigation.

Comair, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, is based in the Cincinnati suburb of Erlanger, Ky.

Delta is based in Atlanta.

The crash appeared to be the worst domestic air accident in nearly five years.

Domestic Crashes Since 2000

Jan 31, 2000:
Alaska Airlines MD 83 (MD 80 series) plane drops off radar and into Pacific Ocean on flight from Puerto Vallarta to San Francisco after declaring emergency and getting clearance to land at LAX. 83 passengers, 5 crew members aboard. Pilot reported problems w/rear stabilizer trim.

May 21, 2000:
Commuter plane with 19 aboard crashed after engines apparently failed during landing in Wilkes Barre, Pa. No survivors.

Sept. 11, 2001:
An American Airlines flight and a United Airlines flight en route to Los Angeles from Boston crash into the World Trade Center after being hijacked; more than 3,000 dead and missing, including 157 on planes.

Sept. 11, 2001:
American Flight 77 en route from Washington's Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles is hijacked and crashes into the Pentagon; 189 dead and missing, including 64 on plane.

Sept. 11, 2001:
United Airlines Flight 93 en route from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco is hijacked and crashes near Pittsburgh; 44 killed.

Nov. 12, 2001:
American Airlines Airbus A300 crashes in Queens, NYC, killing all 260 on board.

Jan. 8, 2003:
US Airways Express Flight 5481, Beech 1900D Turbo Prop, crashes after takeoff from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, killing all 21 aboard.