WASHINGTON (AP) _ Numerous liability lawsuits stemming from last summer's crash of Comair Flight 5191 in Kentucky may hinge on where the National Transportation Safety Board lays blame.
Federal investigators also were expected to recommend ways to prevent such accidents. Interim findings by the NTSB, which was scheduled to discuss the accident at a meeting Thursday, focused on how the jetliner ended up on a runway too short for takeoff by commercial aircraft.
Forty-nine of the 50 people aboard died in the crash on Aug. 27, 2006, at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Ky.
No witnesses were expected to be called at the NTSB meeting, and the only discussion planned was to be between the five board members and their staff.
Commuter airline Comair has acknowledged at least some culpability. Pilots violated cockpit rules about extraneous conversation as they were going through their preflight checklist and may have been distracted as they steered the jet in the pre-dawn darkness onto the wrong runway.
Unclear, however, is whether anyone beyond Comair will share blame from the government.
Comair contends that the government itself _ specifically the Federal Aviation Administration, which runs the control tower at Blue Grass Airport _ also is partly responsible. At the time of the crash, only one controller staffed the tower, despite an FAA directive that at least two should keep watch.
Also under scrutiny is a construction project at the airport that altered the taxiway route just a week before the crash. Airport officials insist the project complied with FAA guidelines, but the updated route didn't appear in a manual carried by Comair pilots and wasn't broadcast over the tower's audio system to pilots that morning.
One lawsuit filed by a victim's family makes a case against manufacturer Bombardier, suggesting that the plane should have been better suited to withstand flames. Autopsies showed that as many as 16 passengers inhaled smoke, suggesting they survived the impact but not the fire that followed.
The crash of the Bombardier Canadair CRJ-100 marked the end of what had been called the safest period in aviation history in the United States. There hadn't been a major crash since Nov. 12, 2001, when American Airlines Flight 587 plunged into a residential neighborhood in Queens, N.Y., killing 265 people, including five on the ground.