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Fri, Mar 07, 2008

Polehinke Wants To Fly Again, Attorney Says

Comair 5191 FO Only Survivor Of Takeoff Accident

For any of us who've achieved the dream of flying, we know what a motivation that dream can be. Watching people with disabilities achieve the dream is especially inspiring when you know what it takes to get there.

James Polehinke is such a case. James has flown before, but suffered brain damage, broken bones, a collapsed lung, and the loss of his left leg in a 2006 crash. He's had multiple surgeries, medical bills which have already topped $4 million, and still faces a long rehab process. His attorney says his dream to return to the cockpit is what keeps him going.

But this pilot faces challenges beyond getting an FAA medical. Polehinke was the copilot of Comair Flight 5191.

As ANN reported, on the morning of August 27, 2006, he and the captain of a Bombardier regional jet were assigned runway 22 for takeoff from Lexington Blue Grass Airport in Kentucky. That runway is 7,000 feet long and 150 feet wide. Instead, they lined up and attempted departure on runway 26, the general aviation strip, which is half the length, and half the width of 22. Polehinke was flying pilot at the time of the crash.

It its Probable Cause report on the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board said the plane's cockpit voice recorder revealed Polehinke and Captain Jeffrey Clay noticed they were on an unlit runway as the plane reached 100 knots, but there was no evidence of an attempt to abort the takeoff. The NTSB also said the pilots violated "sterile cockpit" rules banning non-essential chatter during takeoff.

The CRJ100 ran out of pavement before reaching takeoff speed, and crashed just past the runway's end. Of the 47 passengers and three crewmembers onboard, Polehinke was the only survivor.

Polehinke is being sued by family members of crash victims. He has, in turn, reportedly filed his own lawsuits against the airport, the FAA, and the makers of airport charts.

He has retained an attorney, Larry Moore, who told The Associated Press Wednesday it's uncertain what steps would need needed to return Polehinke's pilot certificate to good standing.

"Jim has a love for flying. He has a love for life, a very strong determination to achieve every level of recovery he could possibly make," Moore said. "That's what he's wanted to do with his life and still wants to do with his life."

Comair spokeswoman Kate Marx said Polehinke is still officially an employee the airline, listed as being on medical leave.

FMI: www.comair.com, www.ntsb.gov

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