Lexington, KY air disaster on 8-26-2006

The Lexington, KY air disaster on 8-26-2006 was so sad that I just can’t stop thinking about it. This is the disaster where the pilot used a much shorter runway…number 26… than the proper, double in length runway…number 22.

I just feel that the runway numbers of “22” and “26” are too similar. I can see very well how they can be confused in a cockpit where you are checking so many things prior to takeoff. In addition to the similarity of the numbers, they were also the same color… white…and also the same size on the runway for the pilots to visualize. The numbers are also both two digit numbers and start with “2” (in the twenties).

It seems to me that when you have two drastically different length runways…7000 ft. and 3500 ft. … that the markings of these runways would be marked drastically different too for the pilots to readily see as they are preparing for takeoff.

What if the runway he was supposed to have used was number 1068 and the small runway was number 26…a four digit number and a two digit number? It seems a human brain would instantly notice an error simply due to four numbers versus two numbers if they had approached the incorrect runway.

What if the longer runway had much bigger numbers than the smaller runway? Again, a human brain just on sight would pick this up, it seems to me, immediately.

What if the four digit number and two digit number were a different color?
I recently read an article that in an emergency situation that a person will grasp more meaning from a sign in a split second situation just from its color more than what it says. This kind of thing is done all the time for people who cannot speak certain languages.

A picture of a commercial aircraft above the runway number might help too. A smaller runway could have a picture of the smaller aircraft above its runway number.

Numbers and pictures along side of the runways in their initial footage could also be there just to confirm the decision as speed is increasing for takeoff.

As I mourn for the deceased and the families of the deceased in this disaster, I can only believe that some of these things, especially if they universal airport markings, could have helped.

Jane Keating

Drastically changing the runway numbering system COULDhave made this specific accident less likely, but would make many other MORE likely. The runway numbers are assigned based on the heading needed to fly them. By introducing 4 digit numbers designed to be radically different, the pilot could no longer to a cross check with his compass to see that he is on the correct heading. As has been pointed out in the other COM191 thread, this simple check should have alerted the pilot he had lined up on the wrong runway.

Other markings are included to help ID the runway capacity: EG, the number of threshold marking (The big thick White lines at the runway ends) indicate width. Also, along the side of the runways are numeric signs noting the number of feet (in thousands) of usable runway left.

The colors of the markings have been designed for maxmuim visibily in the worse case situations, changing the color would make many of them difficult to see.

In the end- simple is in fact better- there is an awful lot of activity going on during departure and arrival (hours of bordem puncuted by seconds of terror and all that), and increasing the complexity of runway marking would add confusion.

It’s good and necessary that, in the wake of any accident, thought is given on ways to improve the human factors involved in the operation of an aircraft. However, as pointed out, the system for numbering runways is simple, direct, and very straightforward. Runways are assigned by their heading orientation.

I do not wish to speculate on events that cannot be confirmed factual, as I believe to do so inappropriate. However, it seems (note I say seems as the facts are not completely known yet) that, as with most accidents in aviation, a series of events led to the crash. During taxi from the gate to Runway 22, the aircraft likely would have crossed the end of Runway 26. If the views from the holding points are similar, it is very possible that the crew thought with full confidence that they had turned on to Runway 22. The error seems to have not been caught in sufficent time by the crew during the takeoff roll or by tower personel.

It is interesting how easily one can become disoriented, even in VMC. I remember flying into an airport with another pilot (general aviation). We heard another aircraft announce a base, and we seached for him with the intent of landing number two behind him. We still didn’t see him when he announced his final. He announced short final, and we announced a mile final but still didn’t have the traffic. We spotted him moments later, on the runway, in the opposite direction. He had approached and landed on the opposite and incorrect side of the runway. He turned off the runway, we landed without incident, and nobody said anything further. Sometimes our minds shift directions, sometimes a full 180 degrees. Unfortunately, this had devestating consequences in Lexington.

I do, and I will. That’s one of great things about internet forums. Speculation.

As other have said, though, they are determined by magnetic headings, and are always two digits. And even if this had changed, say 26 had been renamed 1036, it wouldn’t have mattered, because the pilots DID NOT KNOW they were not on 22.

I’m going to close this thread so we can combine it with the original thread on this topic.