Safety questions raised after Comair suits settled - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Safety questions raised after Comair suits settled

Comair has now settled most of the lawsuits filed against the airline over a fatal plane crash two years ago in Lexington. The victims' families have claimed as much as $15 million.

The crash of Comair Flight 5191 in August 2006 killed 49 passengers, including a pilot. Investigators concluded the pilots' conversations contributed to the crash. A conclusion that one retired airline employee agrees with.

Comair 5191 ran off the runway and crashed killing everyone on board, except the co-pilot. Ken O'Hara is a retired airline mechanic and supervisor with more than 40 years of experience. He says the FAA should randomly listen to cockpit voice recorders. The recorders capture all sounds and pilot conversations inside the cockpit.

O'Hara said, "Would you break the rules of driving, if you had a police officer sitting next to you or you knew that you could possibly be caught?" But the FAA is allowed to listen to the recorders only after an accident, not before.

FAA regulations say that during taxi, takeoff, landing, and anywhere below 10,000 feet, that pilots are allowed to talk about only things related to the flight.

The National Transportation Safety Board found the pilots violated those regulations.  Transcripts from the cockpit voice recorder show they talked about their families, co-workers, and job opportunities.

Before takeoff the air traffic controller told the pilots to take off from runway 22, but the pilots went down runway 26.  Kathleen Bergen, spokeswoman for the FFA said, "The FAA has many, many tools available to it, to use when an investigation is required and also to use when we do during routine surveillance. So cockpit voice information is not generally essential for us."

O'Hara has written letters urging members of Congress to let the FAA use cockpit voice recorders to monitor pilots' behaviors.

The FAA has mandated upgrades by 2012, so cockpit voice recorders record two hours of audio, instead of just 15 to 30 minutes.  But O'Hara says that's still not enough so he continues his fight.

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