NTSB: Comair Flight Took Off From Wrong Runway - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

NTSB: Comair Flight Took Off From Wrong Runway

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A Comair flight carrying 50 people crashed near Lexington's airport Sunday morning shortly after takeoff, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Only one person survived.

Comair Flight 5191, a CRJ-200 regional jet with 47 passengers and three crew members, crashed at 6:07 a.m. EDT after taking off for Atlanta, said Kathleen Bergen, an FAA spokeswoman.

The plane crashed in a field about a half-mile from Blue Grass Airport. Light rain was falling at the time. The plane was largely intact afterward, but there was a fire following the impact, police said.

It's believed the plane took off from the wrong runway. A spokesman for the NTSB says evidence shows the plane took off from a runway that was too short for the plane's weight.

"We have no indication at all that this has anything to do with terrorism," said Laura Brown, an FAA spokeswoman.

The University of Kentucky hospital was treating one survivor, a member of the plane's crew, who was in critical condition, spokesman Jay Blanton said.

Speaking at a Comair news conference, airline President Don Bornhorst became choked several times. He identified the crew as Capt. Jeffrey Clay, who was hired by Comair in November 1999, first officer James M. Polehinke, who was hired in March 2002, and flight attendant Kelly Heyer, hired in July 2004.

He said the plane was new when Comair acquired it in January 2001 and that it was up to date on its maintenance schedule and had flown 14,500 aircraft hours.

"In the coming days and weeks we promise to work as diligently as we can to continue to take care of our passengers," he said. "We are absolutely totally committed to do everything humanly possible to determine the cause of this accident."

Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn said the passengers and crew appeared to still be on the plane and the deaths were caused either by the impact or the "hot fire" on board.

"We are going to say a mass prayer before we begin the work of removing the bodies," Ginn said, referring to the chaplains who serve the airport.

A temporary morgue was being set up at the scene and the bodies will be brought to the state medical examiner's office in Frankfort, Ginn said.

He said both flight recorders had been recovered.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said President Bush, who is spending a long weekend at his family's summer home on the Maine coast, was being briefed on the crash by aides. The news of it broke while he and his wife, Laura, where at church with the elder Bushes.

"The president was deeply saddened by the news of the plane crash in Kentucky today," said White House spokesman Dana Perino. "His sympathies are with the many families of the victims of this tragedy."

Rose Wilson, who lives near the airport, said she was awakened by the crash.

"I thought it was thunder," she said.

The airport closed for three hours after the crash, but reopened by 9 a.m. to passengers who could show a ticket to security. Security officers were turning away others as they arrived.

Outside the terminal lobby at midmorning, Paul Richardson of Winchester had come to the airport because he believed a friend from Florida was on the plane.

"He took the earlier flight so he could get back to family," Richardson said. He said airport officials were taking friends and family on buses to a nearby hotel.

The airport had been closed to flights the previous weekend for runway repaving. It reopened on the evening of Aug. 20.

Airport chaplains at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport were meeting with family members waiting for their loved ones at the airport, said the Rev. Harold Boyce, an airport chaplain.

The Bombardier Canadair CRJ-100 is a twin-engine aircraft that can carry up to 50 passengers, according to Delta's Web site.

The crash marks the end of what has been called the "safest period in aviation history" in the United States. There has not been a major crash since Nov. 12, 2001, when American Airlines Flight 587 plunged into a residential neighborhood in Queens, N.Y., killing 265 people, including five on the ground.

On Jan. 8, 2003, an Air Midwest commuter plane crashed on takeoff at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, killing all 21 aboard.

Last December, a seaplane operated by Chalk's Ocean Airways crashed off Miami Beach when its right wing separated from the fuselage shortly after takeoff, killing the 18 passengers and two crew members. That plane, a Grumman G-73 Turbo Mallard, was built in 1947 and modified significantly in 1979.

The NTSB's last record of a CRJ crash was on November 21, 2004, when a China Eastern-Yunnan Airlines Bombardier crashed shortly after takeoff. The 6 crew members and 47 passengers on the CRJ-200 were killed, and there were two fatalities on the ground.

Comair and Delta in Bankruptcy

Comair, based in Erlanger, Ky., has been battling with the regional airline's 970 flight attendants over concessions the company is seeking as part of its restructuring.

Comair has said it needs $7.9 million a year in concessions from the flight attendants as part of a package of cuts its flight attendants, pilots and mechanics. A federal bankruptcy judge last month gave Comair permission to throw out the flight attendants' contract.

The negotiating teams have been working to schedule additional talks.

Comair has 6,400 employees and operates 850 flights daily to 108 cities. It and Delta had been hoping to emerge from Chapter 11 by the summer of 2007.

Both Comair and Atlanta-based Delta have been operating under bankruptcy protection since September 2005.

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