Comair Crash Followed Changes at Runway

Federal investigators are looking into whether recent changes an airport in Lexington, Ky., may have contributed to a crash that killed 49 people. The pilot took a wrong turn and tried to take off at a runway that was too short for his Comair jet. Officials say lights on the runway were not working at the time. They also say the airport had recently closed a taxi-route.

When Comair Flight 5191 tried to take off from Blue Grass International Airport before dawn Sunday, federal investigators say it did so from a runway where the lights were out of service.

Aviation experts say taking off from a dark runway is not unheard of. But Debbie Hersman, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, says finding out why it happened Sunday is central to their investigation.

"We are seeking to determine exactly what the status of those lights is," Hersman said. "What their function was, who had access to them and all of those questions are what our investigators are trying to find answers to today."

There had been other recent changes at the airport as well. The main runway had been resurfaced. And a week before the crash, the airport apparently changed the taxi-route to the main runway. Hersman says officials will be examining so-called NOTAMs, the change notices airports issue to airline companies.

Investigators are now poring over 32 minutes of cockpit voice data as well as the flight data recorder to figure out what the tower and the pilot said to each other before the tragic mistake.

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