Pilot Flying Victims' Families Over Crash Site Makes Kind Gesture

A pilot flying relatives of the victims of last week's plane crash home to the Canary Islands changed runways so the mourners would not have to see the accident site, Spain's airport authority said Friday.

The pilot's gesture came Thursday on the same early afternoon Madrid-Las Palmas route that was involved in the Aug. 20 disaster, which killed 154 people, said an official with the AENA agency.

In Spain's worst airline crash in 25 years, a Spanair MD-82 crashed shortly after takeoff, largely disintegrating and bursting into flames after it bounced several times and skidded into a wooded area near runway L36.

The engines and other large pieces of the plane have been hauled away for crash investigators to examine, but smaller pieces still remain scattered over a wide area of charred terrain.

The debris is easily visible for planes taking off from runway L36, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of agency rules.

So the pilot of Thursday's flight — with several coffins of crash victims and their families aboard — asked for permission to use a different runway and the control tower granted it, the official said.

The Madrid-Las Palmas route used to be called Flight JK5022 but after the crash, Spanair changed it to JK5024.