Airliner Skids Off Snowy Runway At LaGuardia Airport
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
A Delta passenger jet from Atlanta to New York skidded off the runway at LaGuardia Airport this morning in heavy snow. The plane crashed through a chain-link fence and came to rest just feet from Flushing Bay.
(SOUNDBITE OF TOWER CONTROL CALLS)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We need a team to go onto 1-3.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Tower, you copy? Call 100. Runway 1-3 is closed.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Call 100, you said runway 1-3 is closed?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Affirmative, 1-3 is closed.
BLOCK: Rescue crews on the radio with tower control, the audio posted on liveatc.net. Immediately all of LaGuardia was shut down.
(SOUNDBITE OF TOWER CONTROL CALLS)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: The airport is closed. We got a 3-4.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: Call 100. Say again?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #6: Tower, you have an aircraft on 3-1 on the north vehicle service road. Please advise crash rescue. LaGuardia Airport is closed at this time.
BLOCK: All 132 people aboard the plane were evacuated safely, some taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Fred Mogul of member station WNYC joins us from LaGuardia Airport, where officials are investigating the incident. And Fred, the images from this incident are dramatic. This plane swerved when it touched down, went through a fence, came really close to sliding into the icy water. This could've been much, much worse.
FRED MOGUL: It could've. You know, officials actually sort of downplayed how much danger the plane ever was, even though those images show how close it was to the water. They said, you know, actually that the passengers really weren't at any great risk at any point. There were about 50 responders who obviously pounced on the scene. Some of them helped get the passengers to the terminal using buses, others helped stopped a fuel leak. But even that they said wasn't that bad, it was about a gallon a minute pouring out, which was not that large a volume. They got foam on it quickly and environmental investigators are there, but they say over all, things are in pretty good shape.
BLOCK: And Fred, we mentioned this accident came in the midst of heavy snow. Are investigators blaming this on the weather?
MOGUL: Well, the officials from the Port Authority, which run all the airports in New York and New Jersey and this area, declined to speculate about what had caused the accident. Clearly the weather played some role, but they said that other pilots had landed planes just recently and had said the braking action on the tarmac was just fine. They had plowed runway. So they hadn't been anticipating anything and they hadn't shut the airport, clearly, though some individual flights had been canceled by that point. So they're saying that, you know, they need to investigate further to find out what actually caused the plane to veer off the runway.
BLOCK: When are things likely to get back to normal? The airport was shut down completely for a time.
MOGUL: It was, for the better part of three hours. Now one of the two runways is still shut, the other is open. So, that obviously generates a lot of cancellations, but they expect the second runway will be open as well within a few more hours once the investigators have come from the NPSB to check the situation out.
BLOCK: OK. Fred Mogul of member station WNYC, speaking with us from LaGuardia Airport. Fred, thanks very much.
MOGUL: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.