Law firm advertisment that went up on August 27th:
Press Release Source: Kreindler & Kreindler LLP
Pilot Error and Crew Resource Management to Be Likely Focus of Investigation in Lexington, KY Comair Crash; Poor Pilot Decision Making was Implicated in A 1997 Comair Crash, Expert Pilots/Attorneys Say
Sunday August 27, 5:55 pm ET
NEW YORK, Aug. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- The investigation of the crash shortly after takeoff of a Comair airplane in Lexington, KY, on Sunday morning will likely focus on pilot error and may find, as a contributing factor, a lack of communication between the flight crew.
Survivability of the aircraft model is another factor likely to be considered.
"Aviation is a very unforgiving environment. A single error in judgment, such as selecting the wrong runway, can have disastrous consequences. It is imperative that flight crews are trained and practiced in crew resource management which is a way for the flight crew to cross-check each other and challenge each other's decisions, if necessary," said Daniel O. Rose an aviation lawyer, and former commercial and military pilot, at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP in New York, the nation's leading aviation law firm. "Crew resource management is at the heart of air safety and is the last check in the flight deck to make sure the flight is being conducted safely."
While the investigation is ongoing, early reports suggest the Canadair Regional Jet, operated as Comair Flight 5191, may have used the shorter of two runways at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport when it took off at 6:10 am. If the pilot taxied the plane to the wrong runway, the mistake should have been identified and corrected by the second (non-flying) crewmember as part of proper crew resource management.
Air traffic controllers may also bear some responsibility for the chain of events that lead to the crash if they failed to identify the flight crews' mistake in taxing to the wrong runway.
Kreindler & Kreindler LLP, www.kreindler.com, was involved in a prior case against Comair arising out of the crash of a Comair Embraer 120 aircraft in 1997, killing 29 people. While aircraft icing was the ultimate cause of that crash, the decisions of the flight crew were also cited by investigators.
In examining Sunday's crash in Kentucky, the NTSB will also focus on survivability issues, such as whether the passengers aboard the regional jet survived the crash but died in the subsequent fire. In the United States over the past two decades there have been at least four catastrophic post-crash fires that killed the occupants of the airplane even though they lived through the initial disaster.
"Aircraft manufacturers must design planes so that passengers who survive a crash can quickly and safely evacuate the aircraft. The design of this particular airplane will surely be examined in this light," said Robert J. Spragg, a partner at Kreindler & Kreindler and a former military pilot who was extensively involved in the 1997 case against Comair.
The law firm is available to comment on:
* The history of commuter aircraft accidents
* The development of crew resource management over the past decade
* Victims' and victims' family rights in air crashes
* All other legal issues and guidelines related to air crashes
* Airplane technical and operational matters
* Crash investigation and accident reconstruction
Expert pilots/attorneys at Kreindler & Kreindler include:
Robert J. Spragg: Kreindler law partner specializing in aviation litigation who has been involved in numerous airline, commuter, military and general aviation crash cases, including the crash of Comair flight 3272 near Monroe, Michigan. Mr. Spragg previously served in the United States Marine Corps as a Naval Aviator from 1981 to 1988, where he flew the CH-46 helicopter.
Daniel O. Rose: Kreindler law partner specializing in litigating airline, general aviation and military crash cases, as well as other complex products liability and negligence cases. Mr. Rose served in the United States Navy as a carrier-based attack pilot including service in Operation Desert Shield.
Founded in 1950, Kreindler & Kreindler, www.kreindler.com, is nationally recognized as the first and most prominent aviation law firm in the nation. The firm has been the leading plaintiff legal counsel on hundreds of aviation cases, including major ones such as the September 11 terrorist attacks, Pan Am Lockerbie Flight 103, Korean Airlines Flight 007, American Airlines Flight 587, and many cases of small private and commercial crashes. Its ranks include airplane and helicopter pilots, engineers and other technical experts.
I wish I could say unbelievable, but somehow I'm not surprised. Guess business has been slow lately. (Obviously meant with sarcasm).
I thought there was a time period that attorneys were supposed to wait before doing this sort of thing but obviously I'm wrong. Thanks Chris, for pointing that out.
Still I would like to know if Comair did have CRM training, which I consider to be key to effective Crisis management.
I don't know if you're farmilliar with United 232 or not Barb, but that's the most famous example of CRM saving lives.
CRM came about after the Tenerife disaster, because back in those days the pilot was considered the boss and lesser crew weren't encouraged to speak up against him/her.
"Those Who Don't Learn From The Past Are Doomed To Repeat It."
Murray, I didn't know much about it at all but now that I did a tiny bit of research, it does sound amazing.
United Airlines flight 232 was a scheduled flight operated by United Airlines between Denver and Philadelphia. On July 19, 1989, the Douglas DC-10 (Registration N1819U) operating this flight suffered an uncontained failure of its number 2 engine (mounted in the tail), which destroyed all three of the aircraft's hydraulic systems. With no controls working except the power levers for the two remaining engines, it broke up during an emergency landing on the runway at Sioux City, Iowa killing 111 of its 285 passengers and one of the 11 crew members. It is one of the best-recognized air disasters in aviation history, largely due to the presence of television crews near the airfield as the plane landed end-over-end in a spectacular fireball.
Owing to the extraordinary skill of the crew and a DC-10 instructor pilot, 184 passengers and 10 crew members survived. The crash is considered one of the textbook examples of successful Crew Resource Management, due to the excellent use of all the resources available aboard the plane for help during the emergency.
The incident was made the subject of the 1992 television movie, Crash Landing: The Rescue of Flight 232  (also known as A Thousand Heroes), and was also featured in an episode of Seconds From Disaster on the National Geographic Channel. It was also one of the inspirations for Peter Weir's 1993 film version of Fearless, adapted from a novel by Rafael Yglesias.
Murray, thanks for bringing attention to it.
Comair crash survivor released from hospital
POSTED: 1:34 p.m. EDT, October 3, 2006
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LEXINGTON, Kentucky (AP) -- The lone survivor of the airliner crash near Lexington's airport that killed 49 people was released from a hospital Tuesday to begin several weeks of rehabilitation.
James Polehinke, co-pilot of Comair Flight 5191, had been at the University of Kentucky Hospital since the August 27 crash in a farm field just outside Blue Grass Airport.
University spokesman Jay Blanton said the family asked that he not release Polehinke's condition or the location of his rehabilitation.
Earlier Tuesday, in a phone interview with The Associated Press, Polehinke's mother, Honey Jackson, said she thought it was too soon for him to be released but that he was eager to leave the hospital.
"I want my son to walk out of Kentucky," Jackson said. "I don't want him in a wheelchair. Got to stay strong. Got to believe in miracles."
Polehinke was pulled from the wreckage but all 49 others aboard the regional airliner died. He has undergone surgeries to amputate his left leg, stabilize his spine and repair other injuries.
Doctors say he also suffered some brain damage, which is causing memory loss, and Jackson said Polehinke has no memory of the crash or the day before. Investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board haven't spoken with him, Jackson said.
"My son is not ready to speak with anybody," Jackson said. "He's been through hell. He's still going through hell."
According to federal investigators, the flight's captain, Jeffrey Clay, taxied onto a runway that was too short before Polehinke attempted to get the plane airborne. The plane crashed a short distance from the end of the runway.
Polehinke had a clean record as a pilot, with no accidents or mistakes, authorities said.
He knows he is extremely lucky to be alive, Jackson said.
"He's an absolute miracle," she said. "I think he's going to go down in the medical history books."
Murray, This mother is no Priska Zimmermann. She (Priska) had the good grace to never say anything that victims' families could find offensive. I only feel terrible pain and sorrow for Mrs. Zimmermann.
Comair Files Suit To Share Plane Crash Costs
October 15, 2006
Barriers from an airport construction project were among several hazards contributing to August's deadly Comair plane crash, the airline said, as it sought help in paying compensation to victims.
The fiery pre-dawn crash on August 27 at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport, in which investigators said the pilots took off from the wrong runway, killed 49 people. One of the two pilots was the lone survivor of the crash.
In a lawsuit filed in US District Court in Kentucky, Comair, which is a unit of Delta Air Lines, cited the Federal Aviation Administration and the owners and operators of the Lexington airport for a variety of problems that may have led up to the crash.
Among the contributing factors that were the responsibility of the FAA and the airport were "hazardous, unsafe and confusing" barriers related to a construction project on the airport taxiway, the suit said.
It said lighting and signage on the taxiway were "missing or confusing" on the day of the crash, and claimed authorities failed to properly oversee the construction project and apparently failed to alert pilots.
The suit also noted only one air traffic controller was on duty at the time of the crash.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators, who have yet to announce their findings as to what caused the accident, have said FAA guidelines called for two controllers to be working at the time. The lone controller turned away from the airfield to work on paperwork prior to the plane taking off from the wrong runway.
The fatal flight attempted to take off from the shorter of the airport's two runways that was unsuitable for commercial flights, and the plane struck a berm, some trees, and crashed and burned in a field.
In a statement, the Lexington Blue Grass Airport said it operated safely. "We are disappointed that Comair has chosen to make ill-founded claims against the Airport Board, its members and employees," the statement said.
The suit did not seek monetary damages, but sought a "declaratory judgment" that the FAA and the airport share responsibility for the accident. That would allow Comair or its insurer to seek contributions after it compensates the families, the airline said.
Comair also filed an administrative claim against the United States, as overseer of the FAA.
"This is a required procedural step and a prerequisite to any claim for monetary damages against the United States based upon the FAA's actions," the airline said in a statement.
"We want to ensure prompt compensation for the families and victims, and resolve the appropriate apportionment of financial costs. This must be accomplished through the legal process," Comair president Don Bornhorst said in a statement.
The first lawsuit brought by one of the families of the victims was filed in a Kentucky state court a few days after the crash.
By JEFFREY McMURRAY, Associated Press Writer
3 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - In the minutes before the crash of a commuter jet that took off from the wrong runway, the pilots discussed their families, their dogs and other job opportunities, and the airline said Wednesday that part of the conversation violated a federal rule against extraneous cockpit chatter.
The National Transportation Safety Board released a transcript Wednesday of the cockpit recording aboard Comair Flight 5191. The recording also showed that one of the pilots noted something was amiss when he looked down the Lexington, Ky., airstrip and said it looked "weird" because it had no lights.
The transcript was the first public disclosure of the pilots' conversations during the ill-fated flight, which killed 49 people in the deadliest American aviation disaster in five years.
The transcript revealed that the flight crew "did not follow Comair's general cockpit procedures," Comair spokeswoman Kate Marx said. "It is unclear what role, if any, this played in the accident, so it would be premature to determine that."
In 1981, the Federal Aviation Administration adopted a so-called "sterile cockpit rule" that forbids, among other things, extraneous conversation during taxi, takeoff and landing.
As the pilots went through preflight procedures, Capt. Jeffrey Clay talked about his young children having colds, and co-pilot James Polehinke discussed his four dogs. The two men also talked about pay and working conditions, even as the controller occasionally interrupted to provide instructions.
"How old are they?" Polehinke asked six minutes before the crash.
"Three months and two years old," Clay answered.
"That's a nice range, age range," Polehinke said.
Marx said Comair does not believe those statements violated the rule because they were made prior to taxi. But a later conversation about a fellow pilot was a violation, she said.
FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the sterile cockpit policy prohibits "engaging in non-essential conversations within the cockpit."
Peter Goelz, former managing director at NTSB, said a little extraneous conversation among pilots is not unusual, but the extent of the chatter between the Comair crew was rare.
"I think that when the human factors experts at the NTSB analyze the transcripts, they will identify this extraneous conversation as a contributing factor," Goelz said.
The plane took off Aug. 27 in the dark from a runway that was too short for a passenger jet. The plane struggled to get into the air and went down in flames.
Polehinke was the lone survivor, losing a leg and suffering brain damage. He has told relatives he remembers nothing about that morning.
According to federal investigators, Clay taxied the plane onto the wrong runway at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport before Polehinke took over the controls for takeoff.
Polehinke said: "I'll take us to Atlanta." Clay responded, "Sure."
Polehinke said the runway looked "weird with no lights," according to the transcript. The captain responded, "Yeah." The last intelligible word on the recording is the captain saying "Whoa" just a second before impact.
An engineering report also released Wednesday concluded the pilots never tried to abort the takeoff or realized they were on the wrong runway.
Sixteen of the passengers suffered smoke inhalation, indicating they survived the initial impact, the NTSB said. Other passengers sustained internal and brain injuries, broken bones, severed limbs and burns.
In a statement, Comair said: "We recognize the investigation is a long and difficult process for the families, especially when announcements "” such as today's "” receive intense public scrutiny. Our desire is to learn as much as we can in order to prevent these kinds of accidents from happening again."
Numerous lawsuits have been filed accusing Comair of negligence. However, the airline has sued the airport and the Federal Aviation Administration, contending they are partially responsible.
A week before the crash, the taxiways at Blue Grass were altered as part of a construction project, but the maps and charts used in the cockpits of Comair and other airlines were not updated. The FAA did notify airlines of the changes through a separate announcement.
The transcripts and other documents were also the first time federal officials identified Christopher Damron as the lone air traffic controller on duty in the tower at the time of the crash.
The jet was supposed to take off from the 7,000-foot main runway, called runway 22, but instead used 3,500-foot runway 26, which is meant only for smaller planes.
The NTSB has said Damron cleared the jet for takeoff, then turned away to do administrative work and did not see the plane turn down the wrong runway.
According to documents released Wednesday, Damron initially told investigators he watched the plane move onto runway 22. Later he changed his account to explain he just saw it on the taxiway leading to runway 22.
After finishing his administrative work, Damron "heard a crash and saw a fireball west of the airport," the NTSB said.
Damron was initially placed on leave after the crash but returned to work late last year. A call to his Lexington home went unanswered Wednesday.
As they prepared for takeoff, Polehinke asked, "What runway?" and inquired about runway 24 "” which does not exist. Clay immediately responded, "It's 22."
Louise Roselle, one of the attorneys representing victims' families, said the pilots' conversation about searching for other jobs reinforces one of the central issues in the lawsuits related to the crash.
"It reinforces how Comair has been treating its pilots," Roselle said.
Associated Press writer Brett Barrouquere in Louisville, Ky., contributed to this report.
Crash highlights cockpit conversations By JEFFREY McMURRAY, Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 43 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - The crash of a commuter jet that took off from the wrong runway in Lexington, Ky., last summer has thrown a spotlight on the FAA's "sterile cockpit" rule "” a commonly violated and difficult-to-enforce prohibition against extraneous conversation between the pilots.
The pilots of the Comair flight in Lexington were heard talking about their dogs, their kids and job opportunities just before the plane went down in flames after struggling to get airborne from a runway that was too short. The crash killed 49 of the 50 people aboard in the nation's deadliest aviation disaster in five years.
Comair acknowledged that pilots Jeffrey Clay and James Polehinke violated sterile cockpit procedures after federal investigators released a transcript Wednesday of their conversation.
Investigators have not said what role, if any, the cockpit chatter played in the Aug. 27 crash. But several other air disasters have been blamed, at least in part, on instances in which pilots were too busy talking about things other than flying.
"¢ A 2004 crash in Kirksville, Mo., that killed 13 of 15 people aboard a commuter airliner was blamed on the crew's nonstop joking and expletive-laden banter in the cockpit.
"¢ In 1988, a Delta Air Lines jet crashed 22 seconds after takeoff from Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport after the crew failed to set the wing flaps properly. Fourteen people were killed. In the minutes before takeoff, the crew members criticized Marilyn Quayle's looks, said of Jesse Jackson, "You know, it's scary that someone like him could get as far as he did," and joked that a crash would one day make their cockpit conversation public.
The Federal Aviation Administration adopted the sterile cockpit rule in 1981. It was prompted in part by a 1974 crash in Charlotte, N.C., that killed 71 people; the pilots were talking about politics while making their landing approach in bad weather. The rule prohibits extraneous conversation during taxi, takeoff and landing and operations below 10,000 feet.
Aviation insiders say the rule is often disobeyed.
"You can't really expect human beings to be robots," said Bill Waldock, a professor of safety science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. "A little bit of nonpertinent conversation, I'd say it happens quite frequently."
Moreover, the rule is not easily enforceable.
Contract rules prohibit the FAA and airline from releasing "” or even preserving "” the cockpit recordings unless there has been an accident. In fact, if not for the Comair crash, the tape of the chatter would have been erased before anyone ever listened to it.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time the cockpit voice recorder is never listened to," said Faron Collins, a Lexington control tower operator who worked the shift immediately after the crash. "It probably happens more than the FAA would care to talk about."
FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said agency enforces the rule with regular ride-along inspections and anonymous incident reports that pilots can file about one another.
"We're not there to watch every mechanic turn every screw, and we're not there to listen to every cockpit crew listen to one another," Brown said.
Violators may be punished with a letter of correction, a civil penalty, or a suspension or revocation of their pilots' license, Brown said. She had no immediate figures on how often pilots are disciplined for sterile-cockpit violations.
As the Comair pilots went through preflight procedures, Clay talked about his young children having colds, Polehinke "” the sole survivor "” discussed his four dogs. The two men also talked about pay and working conditions, even as the controller occasionally interrupted to provide instructions.
Polehinke has not been stripped of his license. He lost a leg and suffered brain damage and has told relatives he remembers nothing about the accident.
Representatives of the Air Line Pilots Association declined to comment on sterile cockpit rules, citing the National Transportation Safety Board investigation.
David Castelveter, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, an airline industry group, said airlines "don't have any indications this has become a growing problem."
Robert Clifford, a lawyer representing several victims' family members from the Kentucky crash, said the chatter reminds him of a 1994 American Eagle crash in Indiana. In that crash, a flight attendant had a lengthy chat with one of the pilots in the cockpit. That crash killed 68 people.
"I believe it happens all the time," Clifford said. "There's an adage, `No harm, no foul.' Some level or measure of personal, non-work-based conversation is normal. There comes a point of time where game is on, and we're focused on our work."
Lowell Wiley, a Lexington flight instructor, said that even after decades in the cockpit, sometimes the sterile cockpit rule slips his mind. "Occasionally I'll forget about it and say something," Wiley said. "Things do come up and you'll say something. There's a lot of that going on."
Ray Rowhuff, who spent 20 years flying for the Kansas Army National Guard and worked as a flight examiner, said of professional pilots: "It's like people driving down the road and talking on the phone, putting on lipstick or putting on your trousers. Everybody knows you shouldn't do that, but they do."
Associated Press writer Mark Barnett in Louisville, Ky., contributed to this story.
Looks like there was only one ATC person on duty when the plane crashed, which is against FAA regulations:
Dark Runway "Weird" To Comair Pilot
The flying pilot in the crash of Comair Flight 5191 noted the runway was "weird with no lights" as he rolled the aircraft down the wrong runway. The cockpit voice recorder transcripts released by the NTSB also show co-pilot James Polehinke and captain Jefferey Clay talked about their kids and their dogs as they taxied to line up on that runway at the Lexington, Ky., airport (LEX) on the morning of Aug. 27. The chatter was in violation of an FAA regulation that bans "nonessential cockpit conversation" during taxi, takeoff and landing. The last word recorded was Clay saying "Whoa" just before the Bombardier regional jet smashed through a fence at the end of 3,500-foot Runway 26, became briefly airborne and crashed in a field, killing 49 people -- everyone on board except Polehinke, who lost a leg and suffered brain damage. The NTSB documents also identify Christopher Damron as the lone air traffic controller on duty at the time. As had already been widely reported, Damron's solitude was against FAA regulations. He cleared the aircraft to the correct runway and then turned away to do some paperwork, not watching as the airplane made a wrong turn. The FAA has since corrected the staffing situation at LEX and other airports, but the NTSB report appears to refocus the investigation on the actions of the pilots. Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the NTSB, told The Associated Press that while some cockpit chatter is normal, there was more than usual on Flight 5191 and "they will identify this extraneous conversation as a contributing factor." The NTSB also revealed that at least 16 people survived the crash but died in the subsequent fire.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Comair pilots' failure to notice clues that they were heading to the wrong runway was the primary cause of last summer's deadly Kentucky plane crash that killed 49 people, safety investigators concluded Thursday.
Pilot error caused the August 2006 crash of a Comair commuter plane in Kentucky, investigators have ruled.
The National Transportation Safety Board deliberated all day on possible causes of the August 27, 2006, crash of Comair Flight 5191, which tried to depart from the wrong runway -- a general aviation strip too short for a proper takeoff.
Board members originally had considered listing errors by the air traffic controller as a contributing cause but ultimately pinned most of the blame on the pilots and the Federal Aviation Administration's failure to enforce earlier recommendations on runway checks.
NTSB board member Deborah Hersman suggested during the meeting that there were numerous causes -- nearly all of them human.
"That's the frustration of this accident -- no single cause, no single solution and no 'aha' moment," Hersman said. "Rather than pointing to a mechanical or design flaw in the aircraft that could be fixed or a maintenance problem that could be corrected, this accident has led us into the briar patch of human behavior."
Staff members also concluded the flight crew's lack of updated maps and notices alerting them to construction that had changed the taxiway route a week earlier was not a factor in the navigation error.
NTSB staff member Joe Sedor identified one possible overriding factor -- unnecessary chatter between pilot Jeffrey Clay and first officer James Polehinke as they prepared to taxi and take off. Comair has acknowledged some culpability as a result of the talk, which violated FAA rules calling for a "sterile cockpit."
Hersman agreed but suggested the disaster couldn't be pinned on that alone.
"It's clear this crew made a mistake," Hersman said. "Their heads just weren't in the game here. The issue is, what enabled them to make this mistake?"
Hersman pointed to the paperwork the crew never got detailing the taxiway change. Not only was it not in their packet from Comair, but the air traffic controller didn't broadcast the announcement that morning, even though it had been doing so the rest of the week.
NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker said many things could have prevented the crash.
"We deal in redundancies in this business," Rosenker said. "That's what enables us to look after each other in the cockpit, and if one of the crewmen fails to do something, the other is there to help fill in the gap."
No witnesses were called at the board meeting.
Investigators said the lone air traffic controller on duty used poor judgment by turning his back before takeoff, but they debated whether a required second controller could have prevented the accident.
NTSB staff concluded controller Christopher Damron should never have turned away to do an administrative task "not critical to flight safety" as the jet was preparing to depart.
However, the staff dismissed as a nonfactor the violation of an FAA directive calling for two controllers to work overnight shifts in airports like Lexington -- one to keep an eye on the ground, the other to monitor radar.
About 25 relatives of crash victims gathered at a hotel in downtown Lexington on Thursday to watch a video link to the hearing.
"You just think that if one precaution had been observed, then this tragedy wouldn't have happened, and we would still have our loved ones," said Lois Turner, whose husband was a passenger. "And that, I think, is the sad part and the hard part, to know that there were so many missed opportunities."
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