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Wed, Dec 13, 2006

NTSB Issues Safety Recommendation In Wake Of Comair Accident

Cites No Crew Coordination Of Runway After Takeoff Clearance

Based on last summer's accident involving Comair flight 5191, and five other previous accidents and/or incidents of crews using the wrong runway for take off, the NTSB has issued specific recommendations to amend FAR Part 121 rules.

The NTSB's recommendation amounts to a formal request for the FAA to mandate all Part 121 operators "...establish procedures requiring crewmembers on the flight deck to positively confirm and cross-check the airplane’s location at the assigned departure runway before crossing the hold-short line for takeoff."

The FAA's (non-mandatory) Advisory Circular (AC) 120-74A from September 2003 already suggests, "Before entering a runway for takeoff, the flightcrew should verbally coordinate to ensure correct identification of the runway and receipt of the proper ATC clearance to use it." The NTSB's recommendation asks the FAA to make the suggestions in AC 120-74A mandatory.

Runway 26 at Lexington Blue Grass Airport was not lighted the morning Comair's flight 5191 crashed. The plane's CVR recorded the pilots' comments on the lack of edge lighting even as they initiated the take off from the too-short runway. As a result, the NTSB has further requested the FAA to "...require all [Part 121] operators provide specific guidance to pilots on the runway lighting requirements for takeoff operations at night."

The NTSB cited several similar past occurrences of crews using the wrong runway. Among them, two incidents at Houston's William P. Hobby Airport where crews used Runway 17 instead of 12R as cleared. In both instances the aircraft struck barriers on the closed runway, but were able to continue on to their destinations. As a result of those incidents, the majority of US-based carriers adopted NTSB recommendations for pilots to cross-check heading indicators after lining up for take off on the runway. In fact, the pilots of Comair's flight 5191 both had heading bugs set for a departure on Runway 22.

The NTSB isn't the first safety agency to suggest verbal confirmation of runway selection between pilots prior to take off. In October 2000 a Singapore Airlines 747 attempted to take off from a runway under construction at Taiwan's Chiang Kai-Shek International. That crash killed 83 people and prompted a recommendation from Taiwan's Aviation Safety Council that Singapore Airlines "include in all company pre-takeoff checklists an item formally requiring positive visual identification and confirmation of the correct takeoff runway."

The NTSB says it queried NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System and found 114 incidents of pilots using the wrong runway for take off between March 1988 and September 2005.

FMI: Read The NTSB's Recommendations Here, www.faa.gov

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