Crash's legacy could be safety advances

Experts say FAA should act on NTSB recommendations after Lexington

"It was a commitment to actually do some of these things people have been talking about and recommending over the last couple of years," McVenes said.

Even before the symposium, the FAA had begun making some changes locally.

In the last year, the FAA has staffed the Blue Grass tower with two air traffic controllers on the overnight shift (there was only one on duty the morning of the crash), added enhanced runway markings and required controllers to issue a take-off clearance only after an aircraft has crossed the general aviation runway that intersects the airport's main 7,000-foot runway.

On the day of the NTSB hearing last month, the FAA announced plans to make changes in how pilots receive notices about changes at local airports across the nation. The agency will eliminate local notices (known as Notices to Airmen, or NOTAMs) which are not distributed nationally. Local notices are currently issued by airports to notify pilots about airfield operations such as lawn mowing and taxiway closings, but critics say the Comair crash exposed holes in that system.

On the morning of the crash, the crew did not have several local NOTAMs, including one about the taxiway that had been closed because of a major runway construction project. The airport faxed those notices to Comair, but they weren't given to the crew. The NTSB determined that the missing notices were not a factor in the accident.

Starting in October, the information that used to be issued in a local NOTAM will be stored and distributed electronically throughout the United States, the FAA said.

The key lesson from Comair 5191 is that the "aviation system requires constant vigilance and attention to every detail," Hersman wrote.

It doesn't matter that a flight crew or controller has performed the same checklist or duty for years. Aviation professionals need to perform as if each flight is the only one they are responsible for, she said.

"Everyone in the aviation system must maintain the highest level of vigilance and precision -- lives depend on it."

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