Time line for V1 and first impact of Comair 5191

Jan 27, 2007
San Diego
According to a Louisville Courier-Journal article at...


The lone air traffic controller handling the flight was Christopher Damron, who initially told investigators that he saw the plane taxi to the correct runway at Blue Grass Airport, but later changed his account to say he had not been watching.

"I saw Com191's lights turning toward Rwy 22. I turned around to do the traffic count, heard a crash and saw a fireball west of the airport," Damron wrote in the amendment.

There seems to be a real problem with the time line, CD is making it look like he cleared Comair and saw him taxi toward the runway and immediately turned to do the traffic count. He is telling us he is doing traffic count while Comair is rolling on the runway.

Now we know more precisely and for the first time exactly when Comair was on the runway.

Previously, we only knew when he was cleared for takeoff and when the crash phone was activated. We also knew when the controller, CD, was finish talking to the previous departure asking him about the heading ATC had given to avoid weather. CD says he then turned to do the traffic count.

Comair was cleared for takeoff at 06:06:12, put the aircraft at takeoff power at 06:06:15.

Comair reached V1 at 06:06:29. (V1 was set prior to calling for takeoff clearance. It was set according to the aircraft's weight, field elevation, temperature, and other factors.) Clay immediately after calling out V1 realizes the problem and says "Whoa".
But V1 for the short runway was very close to the departure end of RW26 and just 2 second prior to impact

Here's part of the article....

As the engines increased their power and the plane began gathering speed on the runway, Polehinke, at the controls, commented at 6:06:16 a.m.: "Dat is weird with no lights."

"Yeah," Clay replied.

Thirteen seconds later, Clay said: "V One, rotate," meaning the plane could lift off the ground.

But he added immediately, "Whoa."

The sound of impact was less than two seconds later.

The last sound recorded, from Clay, was an unintelligible exclamation at 6:06:35 a.m., according to the transcript.

CD was talking with Eagle882 up to 06:06:30 when he gave him a frequency change to ARTCC. At that time, Comair was off the departure end of the runway and just one second prior to impact. During the entire time Comair5191 was rolling on the wrong runway, CD was distracted with Eagle882 and wasn't watching his runways. Traffic count could NOT have been a factor. When CD turned to do the traffic count, the fireball was rising off the departure end of RW26 and CD didn't see that either. We know he didn't alert the fire crews until 10:08:30 or a full 2 minutes after the crash. If he turned to do the traffic count, then heard the crash and saw the fireball, why did he wait a full 2 minutes to alert the crash personnel?

If the runway lights are out of service (OTS), it should tell the pilot one of two things, either he is on an inactive runway, which he WAS, or he is on the correct runway and he would have known about the runway light outage from the ATIS as it is a NOTAM. Comair should have asked the tower about the runway lights.

CD should have been watching to see if Comair is going to take the full length of the runway or take an intersection departure.

Since the taxiway to the approach end of the active runway (RW22) was closed, Comair would have had to make a right turn and back-taxi on RW22, made a 180, and begin his takeoff roll from the approach end to utilize the full length of the runway. If he is going to opt for an intersection departure, the controller should be giving him the length of remaining runway. Here is the photo...


According to the CNN article at....


the FAA not only violated the rule about having a second controller on duty, and specifying his role in the tower, that of the radar departure controller, but spelled out if a second controller is not available, the radar function should be turned over the Indianapolis center. The controller should not have been talking to any departures other than to give them a frequency change to ARTCC when airborne. CD should never have been concerned about previous departures and headings to avoid weather.

The FAA continues to circle the wagons and downplay their accountability for this accident....

"In a statement Tuesday, the FAA suggested that a second controller would not have prevented the accident." Then they turn around and say...
"Had there been a second controller present on Sunday, that controller would have been responsible for separating airborne traffic with radar, not aircraft on the airport's runways," the statement said. (This is a TOTAL contradiction).

"The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday acknowledged that having only one controller in the tower violated the agency's policy.
The revelation came after CNN obtained a November 2005 FAA memorandum spelling out staffing levels at the airport. The memo says two controllers are needed -- one to monitor air traffic on radar and another to perform other tower functions, such as communicating with taxiing aircraft. (Text of the memo -- PDF)

When two controllers are not available, the memo says, the radar monitoring function should be handed off to the FAA center in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The FAA told CNN that the lone controller at Blue Grass was performing both functions Sunday in violation of the policy.
The controller's last look at the jet occurred when it was on the taxiway, according to NTSB investigators.
"He had cleared the aircraft for takeoff, and he turned his back and performed administrative duties in the tower,"

When the controller cleared Comair for takeoff, he was responsible for scanning not only the runway to insure no vehicles, animals, or other obstructions may interfere with the aircraft's safe takeoff, but also short final and the departure course for no-radio aircraft attempting to land or low-level aircraft or helicopters transitioning the area who may be lost or simply unfamiliar with the area. Here's a link to the FAA's ATC manual, chapter 3, covering this...


Read 3-1-3...

The local controller has primary responsibility for operations conducted on the active runway and must control the use of those runways. Positive coordination and control is required as follows:

and 3-1-5 a.....

a. Ensure that the runway to be used is free of all known ground vehicles, equipment, and personnel before a departing aircraft starts takeoff or a landing aircraft crosses the runway threshold.

This means the controller is suppose to scan his runway while the aircraft is holding short of the approach end waiting for departure or if no other traffic is a factor, before clearing an aircraft for takeoff while the aircraft is taxiing towards the runway and continue scanning the runway as he take the runway and starts takeoff roll, NOT as he issues takeoff clearance when the aircraft is 30 seconds prior to departure on a taxiway and prior to crossing an inactive runway.....



Turbine-powered aircraft may be considered ready for takeoff when they reach the runway unless they advise otherwise.

a. Local controllers shall visually scan runways to the maximum extent possible.
b. Ground control shall assist local control in visually scanning runways, especially when runways are in close proximity to other movement areas.

Upon scanning the runway, he had to have seen that Comair 5191 was not at the approach end of his active runway and was at the wrong runway. It has been reported that Comair was sitting at the wrong runway for 45 seconds, probably doing his takeoff checklist, before calling for takeoff clearance. Where was this controller's attention at during this time period? He had just talked to Comair at push back and given him taxi instructions while working as the ground controller.

The controller is required to verify the position of Comair before he clears him for takeoff. Here is the link again....


It has been reported that there had been previous incidents at Lexington airport where aircraft had taxied to the wrong runway. The tower chief should have written a memo to his controllers calling for extra vigilance in relation to this problem. If an aircraft is unfamiliar with an airport's taxiways, he can request progressive taxi instructions. Instead of " Taxi to runway 26", the controller would say "Taxi Eastbound on taxiway alpha" and keep a constant eye on the aircraft to give him further instructions as he approached other taxiway intersections and kept watching to insure he got to the active runway. In this case, all the controllers should have been watching out for this previously reported error.

I have seen all the network aviation experts, James Tillman, Bob Orr, and Robert Hager, to name a few, tell us it's not the controller's responsibility to make sure the aircraft takes off on the active runway. Congressman Mica, Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee on Congress, has told us the same thing. WRONG. Look at this..

Determine the position of an aircraft before issuing taxi instructions or takeoff clearance.

Aircraft have been taking off on taxiways and wrong runways since ATC began in the 1930's. They are no grey areas in ATC, these responsibilities were cast in stone after the very first occurrence.

CD has given two stories about the position of Comair. CD originally told investigators that he saw Comair5191 on RW26 and took 30 minutes to change his mind. My concern is that a union representative may have been present or the controller would have been allowed to take a bathroom break and contacted union officials who may have told him to change his story. When I had a federal hearing appealing my 6 Month LWOP, my tower chief and the hub manager were allowed to be present during the entire hearing. When I called a new witness, they left and it took them 45 minutes to produce them. It's tampering with witnesses in a federal hearing.

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