Plane skids off LaGuardia runway, slams into fence near bay

In this image provided by passenger Larry Donnell, a New York Giants NFL football player, passengers are evacuated after a Delta plane skidded off the runway at LaGuardia Airport during a snowstorm, Thursday, March, 5 2015, in New York. Delta Flight 1086, carrying 125 passengers and five crew members, veered off the runway at around 11:10 a.m., authorities said. Six people suffered non-life-threatening injuries, said Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. (AP Photo/Larry Donnell)
In this image provided by passenger Larry Donnell, a New York Giants NFL football player, passengers are evacuated after a Delta plane skidded off the runway at LaGuardia Airport during a snowstorm, Thursday, March, 5 2015, in New York. Delta Flight 1086, carrying 125 passengers and five crew members, veered off the runway at around 11:10 a.m., authorities said. Six people suffered non-life-threatening injuries, said Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. (AP Photo/Larry Donnell)

NEW YORK (AP) – A Delta jetliner landing at LaGuardia Airport in a driving snowstorm Thursday skidded off a runway and crashed through a chain-link fence, its nose coming to rest just feet from the roiling waters of an icy bay.

Six people were hurt in the midday accident, which authorities say came just minutes after the runway had been plowed. It was a near-tragic reminder of what pilots have long known about LaGuardia: Its relatively short runways and waterfront location leave little room for error, especially in bad weather.

Passengers said the plane landed hard and then took a sharp turn toward the fence on the edge of the runway.

“It felt like fishtailing in a car,” Charles Runel said. “But in a much larger car.”

Some tweeted photos of the crashing waves just outside the plane’s windows.

“I’m just thankful we didn’t go into the water,” said Malcolm Duckett, one of 130 people aboard Flight 1086 from Atlanta, which came to a stop atop a berm on the edge of Flushing Bay.

The plane’s wings appeared to be damaged in the crash landing, which authorities said also caused a leak of fuel that was quickly stopped.

Snowfall had dropped visibility to a quarter-mile at the time of the crash, and winds were blowing at 9 mph.

The runway had been plowed minutes before, and two other pilots had reported good braking conditions, said Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. It appeared the pilot did everything he could to slow the aircraft, he said.

“The plane did not make contact with the water,” Foye said. “Happily, that was not a risk today.”

LaGuardia, known for its disconcertingly close proximity to the bay, is one of the most congested airports in the United States. It’s also one of the most difficult at which to land: Its close proximity to three other busy airports means pilots have to make a series of tight turns to line up with its runways while also going through their landing checklists.

The Delta flight was landing on LaGuardia’s main runway, which is about 7,000 feet long and 150 feet wide. On the right side of the runway are a taxiway and terminals. On the left, where the plane ended up, are the berm and the bay.

LaGuardia’s two runways are “reasonably short” but still safe, said former US Airways pilot John M. Cox, who’s now CEO of consultancy Safety Operating Systems.

At airports with longer runways, pilots glide a few feet above the runway and gently touch down. At LaGuardia, Cox said, “you put the airplane on the ground and stop it.”

There’s no rule about how much snow or ice leads to a runway closing. Instead, the Federal Aviation Administration requires airports to measure runways during winter storms to assure planes can safely brake: A specially equipped vehicle races down the runway with a computer checking braking action, and if the runway fails the test it must be closed.

On Flight 1086, passengers said there was a surreal calm as the plane bounced and slid off the runway, but some children started crying after it came to a stop. It was only then that everyone realized how close they had come to plunging into freezing saltwater.

Passengers were told to exit over the broken right wing because the door out the back was too close to the water. They climbed off the plane dressed in their heavy winter coats and scarves and tromped through several inches of snow.

“As we walked across the runway, it was covered with so much snow that I was wondering: Who decided it was safe to land here?” said passenger Jane Kaufman, of Gainesville, Florida.

Among the passengers was New York Giants tight end Larry Donnell, who said he felt blessed to be safe afterward.

“We were all shocked and alarmed when the plane started to skid, but most importantly, as far as I know, all of the passengers and flight crew were able to exit the plane safely,” he said by email.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. said the passengers were bused to a terminal.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending an investigator to retrieve the plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders and to document damage to the plane.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

WKBN 27 First News provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. No links will be permitted. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s