Comair Sues Over Plane Crash

Comair sued the federal government and the Lexington airport Friday over the deadly crash of a commuter plane that mistakenly took off from a too-short runway. Forty-nine people were killed in the accident Aug. 27.

In a statement, the airline said it intends to reach fair settlements with the victims' families but is suing to ensure other parties that bear responsibility pay their share.

Airport officials and their attorney had no immediate comment, saying they had not seen the lawsuit. A spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington did not immediately return calls.

Comair also filed an administrative claim with the government, saying it has more than $17.3 million in losses related to the crash. Most of the figure includes the cost of the plane.

A week before the crash, an airport repaving project changed the taxi route leading to the 7,000-foot main runway that Comair Flight 5191 should have used at Lexington-Fayette Urban County Airport.

The plane mistakenly turned onto a 3,500-foot runway in the dark, struggled to get airborne and crashed in a field.

In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Lexington, Comair claims the Federal Aviation Administration failed in its duty to inspect and approve construction along the taxi route leading to the main runway.

The company also claims the FAA failed to properly staff the control tower with two air traffic controllers. Instead, only one was on duty that morning, and he had turned away from the runway before Comair Flight 5191 took off.

Comair claimed that signs, lighting and markers that would have guided the two pilots to the correct runway were missing because of the construction.

Robert Clifford, a Chicago-based attorney who represents some of the crash victims' families, said Comair's suit and claim is a move by the airline to spread out the financial hit of any settlement.

"Comair really does believe the tower could have broken a chain of events ... that led to this crash," Clifford said.

Comair, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines Inc. and based in Erlanger, Ky., operates 850 flights to 108 cities daily. Both airlines filed for bankruptcy protection last year.

At least 13 wrongful-death lawsuits have been filed over the crash.

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