FAA Wants Airports to Do a Better Job of Giving Runway Info

Jan. 16--The Federal Aviation Administration is asking airports to improve how they provide information on runway and taxiway construction and closings, which some experts say might have been an issue in the Comair Flight 5191 crash at Blue Grass Airport.

The recommendation, posted last week on the FAA's Web site, asks airports to provide airlines and pilots with the latest information on runway work in a diagram. The FAA suggested distributing it by e-mail, on a Web site or hand-delivering it.

It would supplement Notices to Airmen, or NOTAMs, which provide information on construction and runway and taxiway closings but do not have maps. NOTAMs are printed out as text or delivered over radio.

"Due to the rapidly changing conditions that can occur on an airport when runways and taxiways are closed for maintenance or construction, aircrews may have a hard time keeping up with these changes as they occur," the FAA told airports. "In many cases, the NOTAM system may be inadequate."

On Aug. 27, a Bombardier regional jet carrying 50 people took off from the wrong runway at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport, crashing into a nearby field and killing 49 people. Just a week before, the airport had repaved its runway and closed the taxiway connection that planes normally used to reach the main runway.

The charts that pilots used that day were out of date, although the airport had issued NOTAMs about the construction. Charts are published on a regular basis by private vendors, but those companies need advance time before making updates, which can mean a lag during construction projects.

In a lawsuit filed after the crash, Comair says the FAA and the airport share responsibility for the crash, in part because of the inaccurate diagram. The lawsuit seeks to have the FAA and airport pay part of any verdicts or settlements Comair must pay because of the crash.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the recommendation issued last week was not directly related to the Lexington crash. "It is not the impetus for this," she said.

The recommendation cites a diagram that is produced by another airport daily using a computer program. When the FAA learned of that airport's practice, the agency decided to share it with other airports, Brown said.

Blue Grass Airport officials with knowledge of the recommendation were not available for comment yesterday.

Mike Boyd, a Colorado-based aviation consultant, said the FAA made a common-sense recommendation that will not be burdensome for airports.

Reach Brandon Ortiz at (859) 231-1443, 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1443, or bortiz@herald-leader.com [mailto:bortiz@herald-leader.com].