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Thu, Aug 31, 2006

NTSB: LEX Controller Had Two Hours Of Sleep Prior To Accident Shift

Was Vectoring Previous Traffic As Flight 5191 Took Off

The National Transportation Safety Board is wrapping up its on-the-scene investigation into Sunday's loss of a CRJ-100 in Lexington, KY... and at the final public briefing Wednesday night, board member Debbie Hersman shed new light into the work schedule of the sole controller in the tower at the time of the accident.

According to Hersman, the air traffic controller in the tower had worked an eight-hour shift on Saturday, from 6:30 am to 2:30 pm. He then had nine hours off -- during which time, he told investigators, he slept for two hours --  before returning for the overnight shift at 11:30 pm.

The controller told investigators he was handling the accident's flight clearance, as well as vectoring an earlier flight around weather, as the Comair RJ took the runway.

Hersman also told reporters that investigators are checking surveillance tapes of taxiway Alpha as Flight 5191 headed to the runway. Hersman said that from what she had seen of the tapes so far, however, the actual moment the plane takes the runway is out of the camera's field of vision.

The NTSB is also interviewing airport staff who interacted with the plane's flight crew... including workers who had to alert Captain Jeffrey Clay and First Officer James Polehinke they had initially boarded and powered up the wrong aircraft, and direct them to their plane.

Hersman states the NTSB is now working with revised performance estimates for the accident aircraft, as earlier estimates were based on a CRJ-100 with uprated engines the accident aircraft did not have.

According to the revised figures, Flight 5191 would have needed 3,744 feet of runway to reach its rotation speed of 138 knots. Runway 26 is 3,500 feet long.

Hersman said the memorial service for the victims of Flight 5191 is scheduled for Thursday... after which time most of the NTSB team will head back to Washington for the next stage of the investigation.

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

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