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Ex-official: Device would have helped



Published: Fri, September 1, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The device warns pilots if the runway is too short.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- A cockpit warning system used by only a few commercial airlines might have prevented the deadly Comair jet crash last weekend if the plane had been equipped with the $18,000 piece of technology, a former top federal safety official says.

"To have 49 people burned up in a crash that is totally preventable is one of the worst things I have ever seen, and I've seen almost everything in aviation," Jim Hall, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his home in Chattanooga, Tenn.

In Sunday's accident, a commuter jet at Lexington's airport struggled to get airborne and crashed after it made a wrong turn and took off from a runway that was too short. The sole survivor, the plane's first officer, was critically injured.

Mechanical voice

A Runway Awareness and Advisory System made by Phoenix-based Honeywell Aerospace uses a mechanical voice to identify the runway by number before takeoff and warns pilots if the runway is too short for their plane.

The system, which can pinpoint a plane's location using global-positioning systems, also alerts pilots if they are trying to take off from a taxiway instead of a runway.

The software program -- an enhancement to Honeywell's widely used ground proximity warning system that alerts pilots to mountain peaks ahead -- costs about $18,000 a plane. It was developed in response to Federal Aviation Administration concerns over runway accidents and close calls.

While other vendors may offer similar systems, Honeywell's is the only one certified by the FAA, company spokesman Bill Reavis said.




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