LEXINGTON, Kentucky – Comair was using an outdated chart of Lexington's Blue Grass Airport when one of its planes took off on the wrong runway and crashed in flames, and the airline is now urging pilots to use "extreme caution," according to an e-mail obtained by The Associated Press.
Airline spokeswoman Kate Marx said the airline had an old map at the time and that the alert was prompted because even the new diagram it received Friday, two weeks after the deadly crash, didn't reflect all the recent changes to the airport's taxiway.
Marx said the outdated information came from the federal government and was supplied to all airlines, not just Comair.
The National Aeronautical Charting Office, a branch of the Federal Aviation Administration, publishes the maps through vendors hired by the airline.
FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said Tuesday that the maps aren't changed to reflect every airport construction project, and airlines are alerted to those changes through notices to flight crews.
There was a notice about the Lexington construction, Brown said.
A repaving project at Blue Grass Airport a week before the crash had changed the taxi route leading to the airport's 7,000-foot main runway, the one Comair Flight 5191 should have used. Instead, the regional jet turned onto a short runway and crashed just beyond the end of the strip, killing 49 of the 50 people aboard.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, didn't immediately return a call Tuesday seeking comment on whether the outdated maps could have contributed to the crash.
The plane's co-pilot, the only survivor, remains hospitalized. Marx said Comair has declined to publicly analyze possible causes, citing the investigation.
Comair updated its dispatch information for Blue Grass Airport cockpit crews last week with a warning that some runway diagrams don't accurately reflect all the current signs and markings. Comair chief pilot Steve Briner sent an e-mail to pilots Monday pointing out the change.
"Exercise extreme caution during all ground operations," the e-mail stated. "Utilize high threat taxi procedures. If unsure of position or taxi clearance, clarify with (air traffic control)."
Comair, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines Inc., operates 850 flights to 108 cities daily. Both airlines filed for bankruptcy protection last year.