Comair Flight 5191: Close to Home

Filed under:Sad,Television — posted by Anwyn on August 27, 2006 @ 11:14 pm

My father was a Comair pilot for more than ten years; before that he was a career pilot for the USAF. He was raised an hour south of Lexington; this morning’s crash is a heartache. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of all on board.

USA Today describes similar incidents of pilots using the wrong runway. The short runway at Lexington did not allow sufficient time for the plane to get up to the correct airspeed for liftoff. Both runways at Lexington, per USA Today’s diagram, require a left turn off the taxiway, but the turn into the shorter runway is considerably sharper. It was early, it was dark, and it was rainy, but it also seems that the pilots must have been lacking in familiarity with Lexington’s layout.

“There are a lot (of planes) that actually do make wrong-runway takeoffs and just make it,” says John Purvis, former chief accident investigator for Boeing.

Maybe so, but he’s not specifically speaking of Lexington, and not all airports are created equal–short prop-aircraft runways are less likely to be side-by-side with big commercial jet runways at most large airports. You can take off on the wrong runway just fine if it’s long enough; you might be running a risk with the wind direction, but in a jet that’s a much smaller risk than a short runway is.

Recent problems with runway lights at the airport could have caused confusion. The smaller runway is not supposed to be lit at night, according to an airport guide. Normally, the longer runway’s bright lights would make it easily distinguishable from the smaller runway.

However, most of the lights on the longer of the two runways had been inoperable until early Saturday and pilots had been notified of the outage, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown said. Brown declined to comment on the accident.

The smaller runway is not supposed to be lit; it’s not said if it was lit, and by raising the question, USAT implies that it might have been. The lights on the long runway were inoperable until Saturday; they don’t say how they were this morning. These are all facts that should come out in the investigation.

Later today, Hollywood kicked off the Emmys with a marked lack of taste. It’s true, as Hot Air’s Ian says, that it’s less a case of bad taste and more one of bad timing, but with so much in the news–and Hollywood–the timing is the taste. And as Ian goes on to ask, if a plane had gone down near L.A. instead of in Kentucky, would they have proceeded with the opener as planned? If all else failed, they could have cut off the scene in the plane and just started with Conan washing up on the beach. Everybody would have gotten the Lost reference with no need to depict even a vestige of the horror of a plane crash.

Update: If I’m going to get along in blogging I need to trust my first instincts more. Ace said he thought the opening looked a tad edited truncated. I was out last night and not watching the Emmys live. I got home and went to the computer first, not the TV. When I saw Hot Air’s headline, I went to my TiVo, not Hot Air’s vid, and watched the opening myself. I thought it looked edited, and went back to Hot Air to see if the East Coast live show might have been different from the West Coast delayed broadcast. They were the same.

But the opening was edited before the show was broadcast. I watched the TiVo again this morning to be sure. It’s harder to see at Hot Air’s embedded vid than on the TV screen, but look out at the ocean behind Conan–there’s a large splash, with nothing there to cause it. It’s too much to believe that a random passing whale decided it was time for his appearance with O’Brien. I’m thinking they showed part of the plane hurtling into the ocean a la Lost and subsequently edited it out. If so, good for them.

one comment so far »

  1. Emmys Parody Plane Crash Night Of Comair Disaster…

    The actual crash in Kentucky killed 49 and left a lone survivor, the copilot, in critical condition. The parody left, it seems, just one survivor, with a big ginormous freakhead. I don’t know– should the intro to the show have……

    Trackback by Ace of Spades HQ — August 28, 2006 @ 9:34 am

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