Comair warns pilots about signs at Kentucky airport after wrong-runway crash killed 49 people

Tuesday, September 12th 2006, 8:37 am
By: News On 6

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) _ Comair was using an outdated chart of Lexington's Blue Grass Airport when one of its planes took off on the wrong runway and crashed in flames, and the airline is now urging pilots to use ``extreme caution,'' according to an e-mail obtained by The Associated Press.

Airline spokeswoman Kate Marx said Monday that the alert was prompted because the airline had an old diagram of Blue Grass Airport.

The airline got a newer diagram on Friday, but even it didn't reflect all the recent changes to the taxiway, she said. Marx said the outdated information came from the federal government and was supplied to all airlines, not just Comair.

Comair received a new chart two weeks after the Aug. 27 crash killed 49 of the 50 people on board. The previous chart hadn't been updated since January, despite recent changes to the taxiway route, Marx said.

Late last week, the company updated its dispatch information for Blue Grass Airport cockpit crews with a warning that some runway diagrams don't accurately reflect all the current signs and markings. Comair chief pilot Steve Briner sent an e-mail to pilots Monday pointing out the change.

``Exercise extreme caution during all ground operations,'' the e-mail stated. ``Utilize high threat taxi procedures. If unsure of position or taxi clearance, clarify with (air traffic control).''

A week before the crash, an airport repaving project changed the taxi route leading to the 7,000-foot main runway that Comair Flight 5191 should have used. Instead, the plane turned onto the airport's 3,500-foot runway, a length too short for the regional jet to take off. It crashed in a nearby field and quickly burned.

The National Aeronautical Charting Office, a branch of the Federal Aviation Administration, publishes the maps through vendors hired by the airline. FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown didn't immediately return calls Monday or Tuesday morning seeking comment.

Comair, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines Inc., operates 850 flights to 108 cities daily. Both airlines filed for bankruptcy protection last year.