Manpower Problems Factor In Delta Crash?

Several plot points in the crash of Comair Flight 5191 point to a staffing shortage at the regional airports that may contributed to the tragedy.

“The flight crew had begun to power up the aircraft early Sunday when a worker at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington notified them that they were on the wrong plane…”

“The Federal Aviation Administration acknowledged that on Sunday when the Atlanta-bound flight crashed, there should have been two air-traffic controllers on duty.”

“Charlie Monette, president of Aero-Tech flight school based at the Lexington airport, said he has students with 15 hours of flying time who navigate the airport’s two runways without any confusion.”

“Worker had 2 hours of sleep…Air-traffic controllers are required to have 8 hours off between shifts, according to federal regulation. It was not known what the controller for Blue Grass Airport was doing during his time off, Hersman said.”

Source: Chicago Tribune.


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  1. RumorsDaily says:

    They talk about the guy in the tower a lot, but they always emphasize the fact that he directed the plane to the correct runway and he’s not responsible for making sure that the pilot actually manages to get to the right runway.

    I feel bad for the control tower guy, although it was understaffed and he was tired, he doesn’t seem to have actually done anything wrong. We should be blaming the airport for not staffing the tower properly, and for not providing proper signage on the ground. We should also blame the pilots for not making sure they were on the right runway. Unless I’ve missed something, the tower guy didn’t actually make any mistakes.

  2. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    Totally agree. In my opinion, this comes down to two words: pilot error. It seems they really want to blame the air traffic controller, though. It may be cynical of me, but perhaps that is in anticipation of lawsuits against both the airport and the airline for their incompetence in this incident.

  3. In addition to the controller staffing, safety board investigators were focusing on runway reconfigurations recently completed at the airport and the actions of Capt. Jeffrey Clay and Polehinke, who failed to recognize a series of red flags.

    How visible were these flags at 6am?

  4. Pelagius says:

    There’s some good analysis
    of this tragedy from Salon’s “Ask the Pilot” columnist, Patrick Smith.
    You’ll have to sit through an ad for something you probably can’t
    afford, but worth it.

    Sounds like the tower was in violation of FAA rules by only having one
    controller, so you know they’re going to get hit. One should be manning
    the radar, one directing ground traffic. If the one (tired) guy wasn’t
    trying to do everything at once, and concentrating on the Comair
    flight, he may have been able to stop them.

    Sounds like greater restrictions on rolling takeoffs should come out of this, if nothing else.

  5. LintMan says:

    Yeah, it definitely seems like some are trying to scapegoat the tower controller.

    As I see it, the blame lies with:
    – The airport management: construction there rerouted the plane’s taxiing path to the runway, with the unfamiliar path to the runway increasing the likelihood of confusion. Better signage or other indicators might have mitigated this.
    – bad circumstances: supposedly, the long runway has a slight hump in it which makes it look shorter, similar to the short runway.
    – The pilot: It was his responsibility to guide the plane to the correct runway, and bottom line, he failed to do so. He also failed to question the lack of runway lights or verify the runway heading matched what was expected. Was the pilot monitoring the co-pilot’s takeoff to help react when the mistake was discovered? Who knows?
    – The copilot: He wasn’t the one who steered the plane to the wrong place, but like the pilot, he failed to verify the runway heading or question the lack of lights. Also, since he was the one flying, perhaps if he had been faster reacting or more skilled, he might have been able to handle the plane differently to avert the tragedy.
    – The airport management, again: There should have been two well-rested tower controllers on duty. I don’t blame the controller at all: It’s not part of the controller’s job to verify the planes’ runways, and even two well-rested controllers might not have caught it, *but* it would certainly have been more likely to be caught by them than a single tired controller.

  6. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    …that may contributed to the tragedy.

    Might they contributed to the tragedy?