Comair Can’t Sue Lexington Airport

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A judge has ruled that Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Ky., cannot be sued because it enjoys "sovereign immunity" under the Kentucky constitution that prevents counties from being sued without a waiver approved by the General Assembly. Comair is trying to sue the airport for its alleged role in the 2006 fatal crash of one of its regional jets that took off from the wrong runway. The airline alleged that inadequate signage and runway markings contributed to the pilots of Flight 5191 choosing a shorter, narrower general aviation runway instead of the 7,000-foot runway to which they'd been cleared for takeoff. The aircraft crashed off the end of the runway, killing 49 of the 50 people on board. Comair had hoped to spread liability for the accident to the airport and it is also suing the FAA, which had staffed the tower with a single controller when two were required. The controller on duty had his back turned to the windows and was doing paperwork when the crash occurred. An NTSB report put most of the blame on the pilots for not noticing the cues that they were on the wrong runway. The Board criticized the FAA for lax enforcement of taxiing regulations but, in a split decision, ruled the controller's failure to watch the aircraft line up for takeoff was not a contributing factor. The report did recommend that controllers keep an eye on aircraft under their control, however. No blame was assigned to the airport, but there was a recommendation to the FAA that all commercial airports be required to enhance taxiway and hold position markings.