FAA Memo Defies Staffing Ability?
The unidentified manager of the Lexington tower was apparently trying to solve a staffing shortage by shifting responsibility for radar control of aircraft when Flight 5191 crashed off the end of the airport's GA runway. According to The New York Times, the FAA issued a memo to managers nine months ago specifying that towers with operative radar consoles be staffed by a minimum of two controllers, one to monitor the radar and one to look out the windows. A single controller was on duty the morning of the crash, in seeming defiance of that rule, but it apparently wasn't for lack of trying. Internal documents obtained by the Times reveal that the manager, for whatever reason, didn't have the people to comply with the memo so he was trying to offload radar responsibility to an Indianapolis center that handles mainly high-altitude traffic. His request was turned down. After the crash, the FAA quickly assigned a second controller to the midnight shift at Lexington, even though the airport generally handles about six flights during that time period, some of them early-morning departures. After clearing the Comair flight to the correct runway, the lone controller on duty at Lexington turned his back to deal with some paperwork and the crew aboard the Comair flight lined up on the wrong runway.