Who is most responsible for the COMAIR 5191 crash?


It has been reported (and makes sense) that the captain of COMAIR flight 5191 lined-up the aircraft on the wrong runway. So who is most liable for the crash?

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say, “The captain made me do it!” Y’all can beat me in the head with a rubber hose over it, but that’s my feeling. You place a certain trust in your “superiors” that they’re going to do things right, and you go with it. Sometimes you catch them making bone-headed mistakes and correct them, but sometimes you’re doing other things (switching radio frequencies, flipping charts, setting bugs, etc), and the next thing you know, the captain hands the plane over to you… You just assume he 's gonna line it up on the right runway. You just don’t think a guy more experienced than you is gonna make such a fundamental mistake!

Then again, it’s been reported that there were no lights on runway 26. Could they NOT see runway 22 was lit up? Was 22 in fact lit up? I know they’re saying that it was, but says who? The controller? Other witnesses I suppose would have to corroborate that fact before the NTSB says it is factual. So how do you look down a dark runway without seeing a lit runway crossing it? And if you DO see such a scene, ya gotta think, “Wait a minute… somethin’ ain’t right here…”

For the sake of argument, lets assume 22 was NOT lit up and the captain lined it up incorrectly on a beautiful spring day with high visibility…

…just my 2


Two pilot crew, both are equally responsible. It the captain F’s something up, people are going to come to me and say, “why’d you let the captain F up?”


Was the captain the pilot flying? I heard somewhere that the injured first officer was the pilot flying.


The FO was flying Mike, but the Capt. has the tiller and staged the aircraft on the wrong runway for takeoff.


Yes, the FO was the Pilot Flying (PF) according to CNN. The captain taxied the airplane to the hold short line (the nosewheel tiller is only on the captains side) and then relinquished controls to the FO.
Most people understand that the captain is responsible for the FO’s screw ups, but my point was just that even though the captain is PIC, the FO can be equally responsible for the PIC’s screw ups.


I’m sure that’s exactly what he thought as he crossed that runway… followed by a glance at the heading indicator, an “Oh Shit,” and a desparate attempt to get the airplane off the ground. You know the rest.

I figure both pilots are equally responsible. They are responsible for the safe operation of the aircraft. That is why they are getting paid to fly that airplane. The captain is not the FO’s instructor. Together, with proper CRM, the two are expected to work together, cross checking each other as necessary. A lot of things went wrong, and the end result was catastrophic.


The intersection of 22/26 is fairlyy near to the departure end of those runways. He crossed over runway 22 early in the takeoff roll. If when he crossed over 22, he had realised he was on the wrong runway, he would’ve had PLENTY of time to abort the takeoff!



Maybe they didn’t know they were on the wrong runway even after they intersected 22.


If I could have my vote back, now that I’ve heard various arguments and had more time to think about it, I’d go with #3. That IS why you have 2 people up front - to share in the duties and responsibilities and make sure things are done properly.


Agree fully with the above.

Knowing how intimidating taxiing can be at larger airports and looking at the LEX airport diagram, I can honestly see the mistake happening.

Complacency, whatever, something failed in the check the heading indicator / wet compass, and after all we are human, this type of mistake I can understand. WE ARE HUMAN.

What I cannot understand, even in my little ole Sundowner, I would have never moved the throttle forward with no runway lights.

This is the mistake that bothers me most, since from what I read, both the pilot and co-pilot mentioned this during some point and DID NOTHING ABOUT IT, like query the tower to see what is up with the lack of lights.




It’s either that, or the sudden realization that he IS on the wrong runway. At THAT moment, he’s got just a few seconds to make some snap decisions…
Questions going through his mind:
“Do I abort and make us look bad to the pax and ATC?”
“How’s that gonna look on my record?”
“What’s the procedure for an aborted takeoff?”

Now 1/2 the runway is gone and he’s got just about one more second to decide…

…more indecision

.Now it’s too late - the trees are coming up fast! Gotta go…

I can’t fathom it! When you’re a pilot and 50 lives hang in the balance, and something doesn’t look right (going down a dark runway and crossing a lighted one)…

From the movie Top Gun:
Maverick says, “There’s no time to think! If you think, then you’re dead!”

it’s true.


It’s defentally a big mistake and unfortunate but we learn from our mistakes in hopes of preventing something like this of happening again.


So true. I bet, in the days following this disaster, a lot of pilots took a look at the heading indicator on the initial takeoff roll and maybe took a few extra minutes to study the airport diagram.


I’m sure we have all done it at least once - salvaged a landing when in our minds we know we really should have gone around for another try. This is really no different from a decision making standpoint. Only this time it was on takeoff in perhaps a more critical situation. At some point, we must believe, the pilots realized their mistake and continued with the takeoff.


I was just now messin’ 'round with MS Flight Simulator. While I don’t have a CRJ model, I’ve been using the default 737. Yeah, I know - different performance capabilities and all… but still I figure it’s gonna be pretty close for armchair quarterbacking.

Using a stopwatch, I crossover past runway 22 at about 14.7 seconds into the takeoff roll. Playing around with various points in time to abort the takeoff, I’d say he had about 5 seconds from that moment to think about it. Aborting at 20 seconds into the roll puts the nosewheel in the grass with the main gear still on the pavement.

5 seconds to think about it…

It took me 6.3 seconds to read those three questions:

“Do I abort and make us look bad to the pax and ATC?”
“How’s that gonna look on my record?”
“What’s the procedure for an aborted takeoff?”

Aborting at 23 seconds stops you at the treeline (probably with a salvageable airplane). That’s taking 8 seconds to “think about it” after crossing 22.

There was plenty of time to react and abort There just wasn’t any time to stop and think about it…


I guarantee that airplane would’ve flown off the runway. It wouldn’t have been the smoothest takeoff, but it could have been done. You risk being called a cowboy when your supposed to be an airline pilot, but we know the alternative result. Even dropping flaps to the next position, although not on the checklist or even proper procedure, that plane would have jumped of the runway. We always have to fly the plane.

Of course, this is easy for me to say.


I downloaded a Delta connection RJ-200 about a month ago and I tried to takeoff on 22 and I got it up. But I’m sure its not accurate.


As I discussed in the other thread, I don’t think this would have saved the day. Sure, extending the flaps would have given the airplane a momentary “burble of lift,” and the aircraft may very well have become airborne. But, I doubt the CRJ has the same pitching moment in response to a flap extention as a light aircraft, and the extra drag would have caught up to the airplane pretty quickly, especially in a climb attitude at low airspeed. Despite becoming airborne, I don’t think the aircraft would be able to sustain this increase in performance long enough to clear the obstacles ahead, namely the fence and trees. Just my take on it.

Not to mention that this is not a standard trained operating procedure, and it is unlikely the pilot would have used another second (as pointed out, he was already several seconds too late) to add to his other questions…
“What if I extend the flaps?”
“That’ll change my lift coefficient, and I’ll get more lift.”
“And more drag.”
“If I add flaps and don’t make it, then I didn’t follow procedure.”
“I really need to get off this runway…”


Did you have proper takeoff configuration? Rolling takeoff w/o holding the brakes, spool to ~ 40% N1, and then takeoff thrust < 100% N1. Don’t forget, consider any overrun onto the grass a deal breaker as there was a fence.

While MS Flight Sim is realistic in many things, I think we can all agree it falls short of a test bed for performance flight testing.


I took off yesterday from an airport in Georgia at exactly 6:05, the same time this airplane took off and it was still VERY much nighttime. No lightening of the eastern sky at all. Had they in fact had no lights on that runway, I dont think they would have even noticed that they were nearing the runway end. If the threshold lights are not lit, and I doubt there were any lights on at the horse farm where they crashed. (the lights on the airplane don’t illuminate that far ahead. (the PC12 evn has those fancy HID lights)

That said, Needlenose is right, they certainly would/should have noticed something was amiss when the crossed the illuminated runway 22.