Bluegrass Airport closes runway where plane crash happened

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WHAS11.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 6:41 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 13 at 6:21 PM

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Blue Grass Airport has permanently closed the runway on which an airplane mistakenly departed in 2006 and caused a fatal crash that killed 49 people.

The smaller runway closed Friday so crews may begin construction on a relocated and realigned replacement runway.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports the redesigned runway will no longer intersect with the airport's main 7,000-foot runway, which will remain open during the construction.

The new $27 million runway is expected to be completed in time for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, an event that is expected to bring a much higher number of the private aircraft than the runway normally serves.

Airport board chairman Robert Owens said forecasts show those types of airplanes "will continue to account for over one-half of the total operations at Blue Grass Airport" through 2015.

Comair flight 5191 crashed into a grassy field and burst into flames Aug. 27, 2006, after trying to take off from the wrong runway at Lexington's airport -- a general aviation strip too short for commercial jets. The only survivor was a co-pilot.

The National Transportation Safety Board cited the pilots' failure to notice clues they were on the wrong runway as the primary cause of the accident.

The 3,500-foot-long strip, with less lighting and barely half the length of the airport's main runway, was not intended for commercial flights or flights at night. The twin-engine CRJ-100 would have needed 5,000 feet to fully get off the ground, aviation experts said.

The new runway will be lengthened from 3,500 feet to 4,000 feet to meet planning goals set by the Kentucky Department of Aviation.

The relocation of the runway will provide more space for the airport's facilities, including space to add more aircraft parking and to realign the terminal's main access road.

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