NewsCovering Kentucky


'It's still a knife to the heart': Pilot recalls Comair flight 5191

Posted at 1:59 PM, Aug 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-27 18:00:39-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — It's reassuring when someone tells you that time heals all wounds.

But it would be even better if they could tell you how long it'll take. Because for anyone associated with Comair flight 5191, fourteen years haven't done much to patch up old wounds.

"It's just as hard, just as tough and just as fresh for all of us," said Captain Gerry Izzo, of Lexington.

Izzo was a pilot for Comair when flight 5191 crashed moments after take-off at Blue Grass Airport on Aug. 27, 2006. The pilots accidentally used the wrong runway for take-off, and it was too short to get the aircraft up safely.

Forty-nine of the 50 souls on board perished.

"They weren't hotdogging, they weren't cowboying, they weren't cutting corners," said Izzo. "They were trying to dot the I's and cross the T's and check all of the blocks. It was an honest mistake."

Izzo, who is now flying for a different airline, knew the lone survivor of 5191 fairly well. He once shared the Comair flight deck with First Officer Jim Polehinke.

"Really an excellent pilot," Izzo said. "I remember on one trip we flew together, I was the captain he was the first officer, and I looked at him and said, 'doggone, your landings are better than mine!'"

Izzo says he comes to Lexington's Comair 5191 memorial on the University of Kentucky campus every August 27, as his flying schedule allows. But in reality, his former wingman and that accident scene are never far from his mind.

"I just went through my recurrent training, training with my current airline, and we talked about this accident and how to prevent it from happening again," Izzo said.

They do that to learn from mistakes. Izzo said procedures and protocols have changed since the accident, and at Blue Grass Airport runways were realigned to ensure something like this never happens again.

Izzo says being able to tell victims' family members about the changes the loss of their loved ones invoked is really about the only kind of comfort he can offer.

"It's still just like a knife to the heart," Izzo said.

Fourteen years later, the wounds remain unhealed.