FAA Slow to Make Changes Despite NTSB Suggestions

by nph | September 7th, 2010

In August 2006, Comair Flight 5191 departing from Lexington, Kentucky, crashed just before dawn after mistakenly trying to take off from a small, closed runway. The commuter jet broke into pieces and burst into flames killing all passengers on board except the copilot.

After the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) proposed a number of changes in procedure and equipment that might prevent such tragic accidents in the future. Though the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) adopted many of the recommendations, several were left undone.

According to courier-journal.com, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said “We are encouraged by some of the changes that have taken place, but, as in most things with the FAA, progress is just too slow. It’s great they’re working on our recommendations, but that’s not going to prevent another accident from happening tomorrow.”

FAA Falling Short

Hersman said that of the NTSB recommendations made after the Comair accident, the FAA:

  • has improved runway and taxiway markings and signs at some of the busiest airports, but smaller facilities have not been improved
  • hasn’t ordered pilots to confirm they are in the right location for their designated runways as a pre-takeoff checklist item

Changes Made

In the aftermath of the Comair crash, the FAA has taken action on certain NTSB suggestions, including:

  • not permitting commercial flights to takeoff from unlit runways
  • developing educational materials to combat controller fatigue
  • requiring pilots to receive special clearance from controllers for each runway’s intersection or crossing

Improvements in controller operations are among the most significant progress as only one controller was on duty at the time of the Comair accident. Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport is now staffed with 19 fully-qualified controllers and seven trainees.

Sources:
“4 years after the crash for Comair Flight 5191, fixes not made.” Carroll, James R. courier-journal.com.
August 2010. Accessed on 08/31/2010.