Comair admitted to U.S. investigators that its pilots were partly responsible for an airplane crash that killed 49 people, but the company also said better systems for alerting airlines to taxiway changes might have prevented it.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which is trying to determine what caused the Aug. 27 crash, released Wednesday what are essentially the final arguments from the major parties in the investigation.
Blue Grass Airport, aircraft manufacturer Bombardier and the air traffic controllers' union pin most of the blame on the pilot and co-pilot, who in the predawn hours steered the plane onto an unlit runway too short for a commercial jet to take off. The co-pilot was the only survivor.
"It would be simple but inaccurate to conclude that the only cause of this tragic accident was a mistake by Comair's well trained and experienced flight crew," the airline wrote in its submission to the NTSB.
Besides stressing the company's emphasis on safety, Comair suggested that the Federal Aviation Administration should revamp the system it uses to alert airlines and their crews of changes to runways.
A week before the crash, the taxiways at Blue Grass Airport were slightly altered by a runway widening project. The diagrams used by Comair's crew were out of date, but the FAA did broadcast a NOTAM, or "notice to airmen," alerting all pilots of the change.
The system, "developed in the era of the teletype," the airline wrote, should be replaced by one that gives pilots information in real time. The airline provided few specifics.
In addition, Comair argued that the FAA needs a better approach to runway surveillance. Only one controller was on duty at the time, and if there had been more, the accident might have been prevented, Comair said.
The documents released Wednesday included no new information from the FAA, which has previously acknowledged that separate controllers should have watched the ground and the air during the overnight shift when the crash occurred.
Blue Grass Airport solely blames the pilots for the crash, saying their pre-flight chatter might have distracted them. Comair has acknowledged they violated the FAA's "sterile cockpit" guidelines, which forbid conversation not related to the flight during the most critical parts, such as taxi, takeoff and landing.
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