Crash of Flight 5191

Airport taxiway work is delayed

Blue Grass Airport will delay plans to build a new taxiway connector to give potential plaintiffs’ attorneys time to see the runway and taxiways as they were at the time of the crash of Comair Flight 5191.

An attorney for the family of a victim killed in the crash still plans to go ahead with a request for a temporary restraining order against the airport because he wants to specify, in writing, exactly what experts will be allowed to examine.

“We want to be explicit in terms of what can be seen,” said Chad Wadlington, a Lexington attorney representing the family of Rebecca Adams, one of 49 people who died in the Aug. 27 crash.

A hearing is set for today in Fayette Circuit Court.

The airport decided to delay construction, which was scheduled to begin in two weeks, to avoid altering the crash scene, said Michael Gobb, executive director of the airport.

“While we have a construction project, we really need to finish because winter weather is coming, we wanted to make sure we did what we could to allow access to the site.”

The airport also wanted to avoid a repeat of what happened in the May accident at a downtown Lexington parking garage in which a pregnant woman was crushed by a falling concrete panel, he said. In that accident, key evidence was misplaced for several days.

Initially, construction on the taxiway was to have begun the week of the crash, but the airport delayed it at the request of the National Transportation Safety Board, Gobb said.

Construction will be delayed by no more than 30 days, Gobb said.

Adams’ family already has filed suit against Comair because the pilots took the wrong runway, which was too short for the CRJ-100 regional jet.

Wadlington said the restraining order would stop the airport “from removing evidence that we seek to have the experts look at -- the condition of the runway, how they were marked, how they were signed.”

For example, the request for a restraining order asks for documentation of the runway lights and runway signs at the time of the crash “in order to evaluate whether there is a basis to bring an action against” the airport board and the airport corporation.

Blue Grass Airport underwent a significant renovation a week before the crash. The main 7,000-foot runway (Runway 22) was repaved and shifted 325 feet to the southwest. A taxiway connection that pilots normally used to reach the runway was closed at the same time.

A new taxiway connector that is needed to line up the taxiway with the relocated end of Runway 22 still needs to be built. Once work begins, it is expected to be completed in eight weeks, depending on the weather.

The construction delay will also extend the amount of time pilots will be using an inaccurate map of Blue Grass Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration has been distributing a diagram of Blue Grass as it will look once the taxiway work is completed.

That chart was issued to pilots Friday by Jeppesen, a Colorado-based company that interprets and produces charts for airlines based on information from the FAA. The FAA itself has been publishing that map of Blue Grass since at least August.

Jon Zachem, a pilot and former airport board member, said he was disturbed that the FAA was distributing an inaccurate airport diagram without putting some kind of disclaimer on it.

“If they were going to distribute something that was not accurate, they could put a little warning box on it saying the taxiways may change on a daily basis as construction takes place,” he said.

The new map shows that the best way to get onto Runway 22 is to use the taxiway connector that hasn’t been built yet. And the taxiway connector pilots should use to get on the runway isn’t shown at all.

To correct the error, Blue Grass issued a “Notices to Airmen,” or NOTAM, yesterday, clarifying that the connector on the map is closed and under construction. The NOTAM also directs pilots to the correct connector to reach the runway.

“FAA provides the data that goes out to the charting company, not the airport,” Gobb said. “All we can do now is issue a NOTAM that more accurately reflects what’s out there.”

Mike Boyd, a Colorado-based aviation consultant, says experts should be looking at the pilots of Comair Flight 5191, not the airport.

“The thing I fear here is they are going to tar and feather Blue Grass Airport, which is not appropriate, and it wouldn’t be right,” Boyd said. “It is well run, well managed, well marketed.”

In other legal news, a family struggle over the estate of another crash victim appears to be settled for now.

The three children of Timothy Snoddy and his estranged wife, Connie Elise Buckley, have agreed to a settlement in which co-administrators will be appointed as executors of Snoddy’s estate.

Snoddy’s body will be released to Buckley, and she will make arrangements for burial.

Shortly after the crash, Snoddy’s family tried to prevent Buckley from taking possession of the body. Snoddy had been in the process of divorcing Buckley when he was killed.

Charles Curry, one of the estate administrators, said the family plans to file a wrongful-death suit against Comair. Under state law, Curry said, Buckley would share in any monetary damages.

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