Plane crash in Lexington, KY

In the category of things that utterly suck, a plane crashed taking off from Lexington, KY yesterday, killing 49 of 50 people aboard the craft. It looks like the plane may have gone down the shorter runway:

Of the two runways at Blue Grass Airport, the main is 7,001 feet long, with 600 feet of safety area on each end. The general-aviation runway is 3,500 feet. The main runway was completely repaved last weekend. The only construction last week on the smaller runway was to tie it in to the main runway, according to airport officials.

I’ve got family in Lexington, but no one was flying that day. Names are starting to trickle out now. Lexington feels like a big city sometimes, but there’s only about 250,000 residents, so this is going to hit the city hard and leave long memories.

23 Responses to Plane crash in Lexington, KY (Leave a comment)

  1. Very sad, did they often use the short runway for larger planes?

  2. Very sad. Even more sad that it happened in today’s world, with nearly ubiquitous knowledge about… well, everything. GPS providing location data to the nearest meter, 80 different kinds* of friend or foe systems, etc. Shouldn’t SOMEONE have noticed that the plane was on the wrong runway?

    I’m not a big fan of trying to solve every problem with technology, but clearly, this is one that probably could have been, something along the lines of a big “you’re on the wrong runway/approach” light tied into the GPS.

    * gross exaggeration

  3. mamund

    i, too, have family in lexington and often fly there via comair – even as a stop-over to atlanta. i’ve been on that very flight several times! i hav friends who are pilots for both delta nad comair, too. as a frequent flyer every crash touches a nerve. but when it hits this close, i really feel a ‘jolt.’

    preliminary info is pointing to pilot error, but it’s not clear yet. it’s looking like something tech/procedures could not avoid. sadly, mistakes will be made.

    the fact that the plane was found relatively intact reminds me that we *desperately* need to mandate fire-retardant fuels on passenger aricraft. the tech exists – it’s just mor expensive.

  4. That poor first officer… if he survives, he’ll have to live with that decision for the rest of his life – if they in fact conclude that it was the flight crew’s error in chosing the wrong runway.

  5. As a private pilot, I can comment and answer your question Aaron.

    Turbojet commercial aircraft always use the longest runways available to them, especially during the summer since heat and humidity reduce an aircraft’s ability to achieve lift (Google: density altitude).

    Like most aircraft accidents, this incident is likely to be a combination of contributing events that lead up to the accident such as: time of day (no other traffic for the controller to point out at that hour), out of service runway lighting, possible crew fatigue, taxiway changes, only one controller in the tower who was probably attending to other IFR releases and taxi clearances after he or she cleared this aircraft for takeoff on Rwy 22, and finally, possible crew complacency (not checking their compass heading before pushing forward the throttles). I say possible because of course it is possible the heading indicators were faulty that morning but I would venture to guess they were working fine. The CRJ is all computerized and if the heading indicators were not working, the flight management system (FMS) would have alerted the crew.

    The NTSB said in yesterday’s briefing that the indicators from the flight data recorder were reading 260 on takeoff which tells us the pilots had the information they needed to check their position.

    In some newer corporate jet aircraft, the FMS will allow the crew to input the departure runway directly into the flight plan .. the FMS will let the crew know if the alignment is not correct before takeoff roll. However, I do not think the CRJ100 has that capacity.

    It is my humble opinion that this incident will most likely cause the FAA and NTSB to revisit crew rest requirements and they might make it mandatory for all commercial aircraft to utilize runway verification systems.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been devastated by this incident.

  6. scary thing is I fly in those crj100′s all the time =(

    I just left saturday from Scranton PA in a crj100

  7. Jenny T

    I live in Cincinnati, but a lot of people will drive to Lex to catch a flight because it’s much cheaper. This is sad for this area too, I feel like it’s pretty close to home.

    There was even a pair of newlyweds on the flight. sad stuff.

  8. Shoemoney, looks like human error and not mechincal so I would worry about anything. Real horible accident and it dominated the TV news all day here in Lexington.
    dj

  9. CNN has a map that is pretty telling/damning – I scraped the Javascript popup URL, so it may not be a permanent URL – http://www.cnn.com/interactive/maps/us/map.airport/frameset.exclude.html

    I don’t mean to Monday morning quarterback (Joel is correct that there often is a combination of events that cause accidents – break one in the “chain” and you don’t auger in) … but a simple low-tech check is to confirm that your compass heading matches the departure runway.

    Mistakes like this happen – a China Airlines Airbus 340 took off Anchorage airport from a taxiway at heading 240 rather than the main runway at 320 – fortunately, they made it off and just flew home, leaving some tracks in the snow at the end of the runway. I thought they took out some landing lights, but don’t see that in the NTSB report.
    http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief2.asp?ev_id=20020204X00182&ntsbno=ANC02IA011&akey=1

    Yea, this one is a bummer – looks like there was someone in the jump seat who could have possiblly caught it too.

  10. I live in lexington and had a family friend on the plane. Very sad indeed. My thoughts and prayers go out ot the families of all the passengers that were aborad that plane.

  11. Human error or mechanical error it’s a terrible thing to happen to anyone and their family. Hard to believe one person survived and 49 died :( So sad!

  12. Kirby

    When I heard the news, the first thing I thought of was if a friend or family member of yours was on that plane. It doesnt take 6 degrees to know someone who is impacted, especially in a population of that size.

    I saw PSA 182 as it fell from the sky in San Diego in 1978. I will never forget it, nor will anyone else who was there at the time. I knew several people directly affected. My best friend’s father was Search and Rescue and had a heart attack shortly after because of the trauma.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

  13. There was a couple that was married the day before on that plane. The guy was an ex-pitcher for the Joliet Jackhammers. Here is a link to the statement by the team.

    http://www.jackhammerbaseball.com/news.asp?id=1312

  14. Justin, I’m really sorry to hear that. :(

  15. Hi Matt,

    All of us here in Lexington are shaken. Even in a community this large we are tightly knit, and today the cafes and coffee shops downtown and on Campus were abuzz with conversations of those who knew someone who knew someone. I can’t imagine what it must be like for the families.

    When before I simply ignore the dozens of jets that fly over the Chevy Chase each day, I couldn’t help but glance up at each one I saw today.

    The United Way of the Bluegrass has set up a fund with Central Bank taking donations to help families.

    http://www.uwbg.org/news/selectednews?item=news_sxkaDHDH7N

  16. It was a very sad tragedy especially since it seems it could have been so easily prevented by simply following the checklist and verifying the heading. As Joel mentioned, it sounds like fatigue could have played a part in the crash.

    This is so sad for so many families.

  17. Lexington, being Lexington, is the type of place where just about all of us will be no more than one or two degrees connected to either someone on that flight or their family or friends.

    It’s a horrbile thing, and to be honest, very frustrating on many levels. It seems like it was such a needless tragedy.

    I’m not a pilot, but I’d assume they check things like what direction they’re pointed in before they ‘go’. Beyond that, for those that are unfamiliar with Bluegrass, that runway isn’t even close to being big enough. It doesn’t even have lights…

    I just can’t see how a pilot, in the dark, drives down a completely dark runway – crossing a runway lit up like a christmas tree in the process – without considering the possibility that something’s not quite right.

    Very frustrating – and given the number of times I find myself on that 6am to Atlanta, flat out scary.

  18. Since my other “life” is in Thoroughbred breeding I know many people in Lexington. We lost Dan Mallory, one of the most loved horsemen I have ever been honored to know, on that flight. He went out of his way to help all others, was a friend to all, and operated his business in ultimate integrity. He left the world a better place and will be sorely missed.

    Dan was supposed to fly out the night before heading to the Thoroughbred sale in Texas. The flight was overbooked and he was rescheduled to the flight that crashed. The loss will be hardest on his wife and children.

    Another friend tells me that the entrance to the runways had been changed or repainted about a week before this happened but numerous flights had left since then. There were also issues with runway lights not being on.

    The pilots were supposedly given the correct runway but turned onto the wrong one. The correct runway was apparently lit but the other was not and that was said to be mentioned on the flight recorder.

    To add to the confusion there is now an article at http://www.topix.net/content/reuters/0123595333302954457637946058380536564416 indicating that there had been an advisory to pilots the day before indicating that the lights were off on the correct runway.

    The flight took off before daylight in rain which further reduced visibility.

  19. http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/08/30/plane.crash/index.html

    Lexington controller had only 2 hours of sleep

    The lone air-traffic controller on duty at the time of a jet crash Sunday morning in Lexington, Kentucky, was working on only two hours of sleep, a National Transportation Safety Board spokeswoman said Wednesday.

    The controller told investigators that he had worked in the Blue Grass Airport tower from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday before reporting to work again at 11:30 p.m. Saturday, said Debbie Hersman, the NTSB member in charge of the crash investigation.

    He was scheduled to work until 8 a.m. Sunday, she said

  20. James Walker

    I have had several discussions with a pilot friend about the tower controller. This was the only plane doing anything that morning. the tower is right at where the 2 runways intersect and is just to the right of the taxiway. This controller had a lone plane in his airspce and he has a sideline view of it. Maybe the FAA says his responsibility is over when he clears the aircraft for takeoff, but until they are parked at the end of head of the runway, which he has a view of, its right in front of his glass windows, and probably shaking them, he still has a responsibility. He is physically still in site of the aircraft, doesn’t have to go downstairs down the hall outside, drive over to the runway, just look up.
    No matter what is written, the expectation of the passengers is for the pilot and the controller(s) to safely take them between air operations areas safely so that they arrive a destination from starting point in a controlled manner.
    The pilots started prepping the wrong plane, anyone catch that.

  21. Craig

    explain why “mossad” returned 0 links a few months ago, i tell a few people about it, and now a few months later it returns links.i know a lil programming , in order to return 0 links it would have to be specifically put into the engine code to NOT return. It seems strange to me.

  22. Yeah, sad stuff. Two of the people were a newlywed couple flying on their honeymoon.
    :(

  23. Mike Steinert

    I witnessed the crash of September 25, 1978 from the RTC NTC Naval Station in San Diego. I was currently assigned to barracks clean up duty, and watched as a jet aircraft take off from the end of the runway from the second floor of the barracks. My attention was really on cleaning the barracks so I looked away momentarily. I looked back up in the sky just in time to see a flash and then watched as a jet aircraft just fell out of the sky and crashed over the hill out of sight. I assumed it was the jet that was taking off, but it turns out to be a different jet coming in for a landing from what I have read. This was the worst accident I have ever witnessed. Even after all these years, I still think of that day. I can’t imagine what terror it must have been knowing the plane was going down and there was nothing you could do but hang on and wait. It was a sad day, and wish I hadn’t been there to see it happen.
    Mike

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