Crash In Kentucky

I woke up this morning to the news of a Comair regional jet crash in Lexington, Kentucky. The circumstances were unusual, to say the least, as it looks like the plane never got airborne, or barely lifted. Weather conditions seem not to be a factor.

Now there is word (and this is unconfirmed as far as I can tell) the plane took off on the wrong runway!

I’ve attached the Blue Grass Airport layout. The small picture on the left is clickable for a larger image. It’s not hard to see the relative difference in length between those two strips of asphalt.

How could this happen? The tower should have had a clear sight line once the plane moved beyond the terminal. If I’m reading correctly, the top of the tower is 118 feet above the runway, meaning the controller was about 100 feet above.

And yet, it’s happened before. This is from FlightAware:

n 1993, the pilot of an air carrier filed a report with the NASA ASRS (aviation safety reporting system) after nearly departing from runway 26 when instructed to depart from runway 22 at Lexington. The report reads: “Aircraft was cleared for immediate takeoff (traffic was inside the marker) on runway 22 at KLEX. We taxied onto the runway and told tower we needed a moment to check our departure routing with our weather radar (storms were in the area, raining at the airport). We realized our heading was not correct for our assigned runway and at that moment, tower called us to cancel the takeoff clearance because we were lined up on runway 26. We taxied clear and then held short of runway 22 for landing traffic. We took off on runway 22 and proceeded without incident. Possible contributing factors were poor visibility and weather (rain. Confusing runway intersection and tower’s request for an immediate takeoff. Suggest possible warning page (similar to Houston Hobby) to clarify multiple runway ends.”

FlightAware’s airport information page for Houston Hobby (KHOU) shows the following disclaimer: “DUE TO COMPLEX RY CONFIGURATION; WHEN TAXIING TO THRS 12L & 12R AND 17 CHECK COMPASS HEADING BEFORE DEPARTING.”

Any time you hop aboard an airplane, you put your safety in someone else’s hands. You’d like to think everyone’s going by the book, taking no shortcuts which compromise safety.

I’ve never seen any business where that’s true 100% of the time.