Comair (Delta Airlines) Canadair CRJ-100 plane crash
Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Delta Flight 5191 was en route from Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky, to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson
International Airport. The plane crashed a mile from the airport shortly after take-off. The aircraft was largely intact
afterward, but there was a fire following the impact.
The flight was operated by a CRJ-100 regional jet belonging to Delta's commuter carrier, Comair. There were 46 passengers, three crew members and one off-duty crew member on board. Only the first officer survived.
The plane took off from the wrong runway. The main runway at Lexington's airport is 7,000 feet long, while a daytime-only, general aviation runway is about 3,500 feet. The plane would have needed 5000 ft to take off.
Aerial images of the crash site showed trees damaged at the end of the short runway and the nose of the plane almost parallel to the small strip. Moreover, ground scars mark the end runway, suggesting that the pilot would have pull up quickly to get airborne before the end of the runway. Aviation experts said that it appeared that the jet had enough speed to get airborne but was heavily damaged by the impact with the trees. The CRJ-100 jet appears to have been within 20 to 30 feet of clearing the trees and flying to safety. The 3-foot-long tip of the left wing, along with other pieces of the jet, were visible in the trees.
There have been some indications that some of the taxiways were closed. The taxi route for commercial jets at Blue Grass Airport was altered a week before the accident. So perhaps, when the crew was taxiing out, it was dark and it was raining, perhaps they got a bit confused.
The plane was doomed at the beginning of the take-off course. The crew could have rejected the take-off, but before they realized they were probably in trouble, they had probably eaten up 90 per cent of the runway. Moreover, the runway was wet: they would have needed even more distance to stop.
In the tower, only one traffic controller was on duty, a violation of Federal Aviation Administration policy. He had cleared the jet for takeoff but then turned away to perform "administrative duties" as the plane went down the wrong runway.