NTSB: Crews Should Check Runway Heading Before Departure

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When a Comair CRJ-100 crashed in August while trying to depart from the wrong runway at Lexington (Ky.) Airport, killing 49 people, it was one of those error chains that gave pause to many pilots. While most aviators will say that checking the runway heading is part of their pre-takeoff routine, many admit they don't always do it, and many checklists don't include it. Now the NTSB wants that to change, at least for airline crews. In recommendations issued on Tuesday, the safety board asks the FAA to require all Part 121 operators to establish procedures for flight crews to positively confirm and cross-check the airplane's location before crossing the hold-short line for takeoff. The NTSB also wants those operators to provide specific guidance to pilots regarding the runway lighting requirements for takeoff operations at night. The safety letter cites several other accidents in which flight crews used an incorrect departure runway, including the October 2000 crash of a Boeing 747 in Taiwan, in which 83 people died. Further, NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System found 114 reports of incidents from March 1988 to September 2005 in which flight crews lined up on the wrong runway for takeoff, the NTSB said.