NTSB urges enforcement of safety recommendations


LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – The agency investigating a plane crash last summer that killed 49 people has instructed the Federal Aviation Administration to more aggressively enforce new safety recommendations issued after the disaster.

In a response to written questions submitted last month from U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, the National Transportation Safety Board said it had found several examples of crews failing take the extra steps to cross-check a plane’s runway location before takeoff.

The pilots of Comair Flight 5191 early on Aug. 27 steered the plane onto an unlit runway at Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport that was too short for a commercial jet to take off. The NTSB issued the cross-check recommendation last December.

Although the FAA in September had urged better runway awareness, NTSB said it expressed concern that the advisory was nonbinding and might not be followed.

“The board found several operators that had not established the recommended procedures and told the FAA to move beyond providing advisory information and become more aggressive in affecting change in this area,” NTSB wrote.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the agency was in the process of turning the advisory into a mandatory rule for airlines, but that requires going through a governmental approval process that could take several months.

“Rulemaking generally takes some time,” Brown said. “What we’ve found is that sharing safety information and putting out advisory guidance can accomplish many of the safety goals we’re after much more quickly than rulemaking.”

Chandler, a Kentucky Democrat who complained about the FAA’s lag in answering his questions, said the answers he received Friday were insufficient.

“I see this delay as a reflection of the FAA’s repeated failure to promptly and adequately address air safety concerns and a great disservice to the families of victims of the Comair crash and to the general public,” Chandler said.

The Comair plane clipped trees and a fence before crashing into a nearby farm. Only the co-pilot survived. There was only one air traffic controller in the tower that morning, despite an FAA directive that air and ground responsibilities should be divided between two people.