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Crashed US jet took wrong runway

August 28, 2006 11:01 IST

A US commuter jet that crashed in Kentucky on Sunday killing 49 people used a shorter runway that was not allowed for passenger jets, a federal official has said.

Data from the black box of Comair Flight 5191 and damages at the crash scene have shown that the aircraft took off from the shortest runway at the airport, Debbie Hersman, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board said on Sunday.

Only the co-pilot survived the crash which occurred shortly after the aircraft took off from the Blue Grass Airport in Kentucky.

The strip of the runway used by Flight 5191 was said to be only 3,500 feet when the twin engine jet will have required a bare minimum of 5,000 feet to fully get off the ground. Investigators are looking at how the pilot got on to this runway from the main runway.

"We will be looking into performance data, we will be looking at the weight of the aircraft, we will be looking at speeds, we will pull all that information off," Hersman said.

The jet bound for Atlanta rammed through a perimeter fence and went down in a field less than a mile from the run of the runway shortly after take off at 6 am (local time) on Sunday. A police officer who pulled the co-pilot out of the cracked cockpit suffered burn

injuries. The lone survivor is said to be still in a critical condition at the University of Kentucky hospital.

The FAA has confirmed that the agency had no indication that terrorism was involved in any way in a plane crash that is worst domestic incident in the last five years.

On more than one occasion the President of Comair Don Bornhorst maintained that the maintenance of the plane was up to date and the three member flight crew was quite familiar with the plane.

"We are absolutely, totally committed to doing everything humanly possible to determine the cause of this accident. One of the most damaging things that can happen to an investigation of this magnitude is for speculation or for us to guess at what may be happening," Bornhorst remarked.

The aircraft that went down had logged 14,500 hours, which is consistent for that age of the plane. Many of the passengers aboard Comair Flight 5191 were reportedly scheduled to be transferring to other destinations at Atlanta.

President George W Bush, who is spending a long weekend with his entire family at their Maine residence, has been kept informed of the developments. "The President was deeply saddened by the news of the plane crash in Kentucky. His sympathies are with the many families of the victims of this tragedy," Deputy White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said.

Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
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