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August 27, 2006

Delta/Comair Flt 5191 Crashes in Lexington Field

Delta/Comair Flight 5191 crashed into a field at the Lexington, KY airport today.

Comair is Delta's regoinal short-haul carrier partner. The flight attendants call ComAir "ComScare", but I've never had any problems flying them.

The CRJ has a good safety record. It's not a bad plane. Lots of carriers use them in the United States. THey're easy to identify, because the way their wings point up at the tips. (The Airbus wingtips stick up a little, but not nearly as much as a CRJ). Jennifer and I flew on a CRJ-200 twice last week, from Honolulu to Hilo and from Kona to Honolulu. I fly on the CRJ-200 pretty frequently (about once a week). I'm ambivalent about the plane. It's small, fast, and sleek, but it has small overhead bins, and I always hit my head on the lighted Emergency Exit sign, beause the cabin is small, and I always forget to duck.

If you look at the phots showing the crash site in relation to the airport, it's very clear that they simply used the wrong runway. They took off on Runway 22 (3,500 feet), instead of Runway 26 (7,000 feet). This was easy to do since the runways are close together, runway 26 (and part of 22) had just been repaved, they lined up in the dark, and were probably the first plane out there in the morning:

As usual, AirDisaster.com has the scoop.

[snip]... the 0600AM departure means a 0400AM wakeup. You're tired and it's still dark. You're the only plane out there, so tower probably cleared you for takeoff before you ever left the ramp area.....you see a lit up piece of concrete and away you go.

Update: Apparently, they weren't the "only plane out there". Two other planes departed on the correct ruway (runway 22) at 6:02 and 6:04. Flt 5191 was cleared for Take Off at 6:05.

Apparently, other people have made the same mistake - that is, they lined up on the wrong runway at Lexington before, and went so far as to suggest a solution to prevent this tragedy that wasn't adopted.

Update: The plane has been confirmed as a CRJ-100ER, tail number N431CA. It was alternately described as a CRJ-100 or a CRJ-200. I don't think you could tell the difference in a 100 from a 200 from the outside. The 200 has improved GE engines over the 100, but I'm not clear that you could tell them apart from outside the cabin.

The plane crash, for some reason, makes me recall our approach into Hilo in the CRJ-200. We got into a nice, sharp bank, where you could look across the aisle out that far window, and see only ocean, and look out my window, and see nothing but sky. We were banking really hard. And, I fly a lot, so I don't panic much in these situations. If you're going to die, you're going to die, and wailing and crying isn't going to change rule number 1. But, when we deboarded, I did ask the pilot about the approach, and he said we were "on a visual".

I had the same thing happen in Nashville about a month ago. Same drill where they're augering the plane in, dodging thunderheads. These pilots are nuts. They live for a "visual" approach, so that they can fly around clouds and toss us around like luggage on a baggage cart. Most of them are ex-military, so it's the only excitement they get, I suppose.

Posted by Peenie Wallie on August 27, 2006 at 12:49 PM


I don't know any flight attendant that calls Comair "Com- Scare". In over a decade I've never had a reason to feel uneasy about the pilots abilities.

Posted by: stew on September 3, 2006 at 7:24 AM

Well, I do. And, I'm not saying that it means anything, but I didn't make it up. I did have a friend that was also a flight attendant tell me that they called it "Comscare". Sort of as an inside joke, I guess. I don't think that this is uncommon - for people in any industry to make fun of a company's name, in confidence, that plays to our deepest fears. I'm not saying that it means they're an incompetent, dangerous airline. I'm just saying that a flight attendant told me that that was what they called it. Surprisingly, just because you haven't heard the term, doesn't mean that its not in play in the industry.

Here's someone making reference to Comscare in March of 2006, and here's someone else using the term Comscare four years ago. Let me know if there's any other industry jargon you need an industry outsider to clue you in on. Doh!

Posted by: Peenie Wallie on September 3, 2006 at 11:12 AM

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