Comair Final Report Released

By: Jeremy Hubbard, ABC News
By: Jeremy Hubbard, ABC News

The National Transportation Safety Board releases its final report regarding the crash of Comair Flight 5191.

Comair 5191 crashed in Aug. 2006, shortly after taking off from Bluegrass Airport in Lexington, Ky, killing 49 of the 50 people on board.

One of the findings of investigators was that the two crewmen weren't focused on their work.

Too much cockpit conversation may have contributed to this deadly crash. The NTSB's final report on Comair Flight 5191 shows the pilot and co-pilot spent 40 crucial seconds right before takeoff talking about their careers, co-workers and even their pets.

"When you're an airline pilot, people count on you to operate each and every flight in a professional manner," said Captain Robert Sumwalt, NTSB Vice Chairman.

Investigators say the conversation may have distracted them from noticing they were taking off from the wrong runway.

"How did this crew miss this?" NTSB member Steven Chealander questioned.

The commuter jet crashed in pre-dawn darkness last August in Lexington, Ky. On July 26, families listened to the investigator's findings.

"The more information we get, it does help, you know, to get a little more closure to this," Anita Threet said. Her husband died in crash.

The NTSB said the crew made a series of errors. The captain didn't conduct a full pre-flight briefing. They failed to notice lighted signs and runway markings, showing the plane was in the wrong place. And then there was the personal chit-chat, a violation of FAA rules.

"We don't have one specific bit of information to say what caused them to do what they did," said NTSB Investigator Joseph Sedor.

A confusing taxiway construction project and an understaffed control tower, may also be factors.

"Aviation isn't inherently risky business, but it's very unforgiving of error. And this is an example of how unforgiving," Chealander said.

The NTSB says wrong-runway takeoffs have happened again-- at least twice-- since last year's crash. Investigators say mandatory cockpit audio warning systems and real-time "moving maps" would allow pilots to verify that they're on the right runway.

The NTSB will now consider those changes.


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