Comair Flight 5191 co-pilot, pilot's widow sue FAA, airport, chart manufacturer

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Approximate paths at Blue Grass Airport (picture before airport construction done weeks before the crash):

██ Desired path via Runway 22

██ Actual path via Runway 26, ending at approximate crash site.

X marks the closed taxiway

The co-pilot and the widow of the pilot of Comair Flight 5191 have sued the United States Federal Aviation Administration, Blue Grass Airport where the crash occurred, and Jeppesen Dataplan Inc, the manufacturer of the airport charts the pilots were using and a subsidiary of Boeing.

The co-pilot was the only survivor in the disaster, which killed 49 people one year ago on August 27, 2006. The aircraft crashed after attempting takeoff on the wrong runway, which was only for general aviation and therefore not long enough for use by commercial airliners.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined last month that the primary cause of the accident was most likely pilot error. However, First Officer James Polehinke and Amy Clay, widow of Captain Jeffrey Clay, allege that all three organisations they are suing were also negligent.

Despite this, one lead investigator has named other contributing factors, including staffing deficiencies in the control tower, an air traffic controller suffering from fatigue, airport charts that were out of date and the fact that vital documents warning pilots of a route change due to construction work did not reach the aircraft's flight crew.

In addition to the other three companies, Polehinke is also suing the company that designed the lighting system in use at the airport.

The NTSB's official probable cause for the disaster is as follows: "The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the flight crewmembers’ failure to use available cues and aids to identify the airplane’s location on the airport surface during taxi and their failure to cross‑check and verify that the airplane was on the correct runway before takeoff. Contributing to the accident were the flight crew’s non-pertinent conversations during taxi, which resulted in a loss of positional awareness and the Federal Aviation Administration’s failure to require that all runway crossings be authorized only by specific air traffic control clearances."

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