The flight crew of the Comair flight that crashed in Lexington, Ky., in August 2006 failed to keep track of the airplane's location on the airport during taxi and then didn't check that they were on the right runway before takeoff, the NTSB said in its final report on Thursday. "This accident was caused by poor human performance," NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker said in a statement. "Forty-nine lives could have been saved if the flight crew had been concentrating on the important task of operating the airplane in a safe manner." Contributing factors in the accident were the crew's nonpertinent conversation and the FAA's failure to require that all runway crossings must be authorized by specific air traffic control clearances, the Board said. The actions of the air traffic controller on duty were not cited as a contributing factor. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association said the Lexington controller did nothing wrong.
"He cleared the aircraft to the correct runway and performed his duties by the book," NATCA President Patrick Forrey said in a news release on Thursday. However, he said, the tragedy might have been averted if a second controller had been on duty. NATCAs long-held position is there should never be one controller working by themselves," he said. This is a system operated by human beings. Pilots make mistakes. Controllers make mistakes. But we catch each others mistakes if we have the resources and the staffing to do so. That is the key to aviation safety. " The Air Line Pilots Association submitted a 128-page report to the NTSB this week, detailing its own analysis of what happened and a list of conclusions and safety recommendations. For the complete text of ALPA's report, go to its web site.