Despite the snow, ice, and even low visibility — a quarter of a mile at the time — by many accounts Delta flight 1086’s morning jaunt from Atlanta to New York should have been routine.
It was anything but.
Passengers say everything seemed normal, until the wheels made contact with Runway 13 around 11 a.m., and kept on going.
Sliding -- or skiing, as one passenger later described the experience – it hooked a left, crashed through a fence and came to abrupt stop atop a protective flood water berm, its left wing spewing fuel at a gallon a minute.
FDNY pictures show the nose of the MD-88 precariously jutting out over Flushing Bay.
There were 127 passengers and five crew on board. The FDNY said two dozen people suffered minor injuries — mostly back and neck — and three were taken to hospital.
Phil Derner, founder of NYCAviation.com told Metro there’s no smoking gun he sees in the incident and said a unique circumstance — a tailwind shift or mechanical breakdown — are among possible causes.
The Port Authority, which runs the airports, repeatedly noted at a news conference that Runway 13 was just plowed.
"That runway had been plowed literally minutes before, and other pilots declared good braking conditions," Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye.
Foye wouldn’t speculate on what went wrong. That will be determined by the National Transportation Safety Board, which has opened an investigation.
Derner shot down suggestions that perhaps the wintry weather should have grounded air travel.
“There was really no reason for it to be closed,” he said.
Airports are built to wintry weather like this, especially those in a town as important as The Big Apple, he said, and there are other airports with runways shorter than LaGuardia’s 7,000 feet.
A half hour before the incident, logs from LiveATC.net (which monitors air traffic controller chatter) recorded the control tower asking crews about runway conditions. The reply? There is an inch of slushy snow – and that no chemical melt had been used.
"We're just grooming and plowing," one crewman says.
Fiscal Times Editor-in-Chief Jacqueline Leo disagrees that LaGuardia’s stubby runways aren’t part of the problem.
“Pilots hate to land in LaGuardia because the runways are short. Some have said it’s like trying to land a 747 as if it were a helicopter,” she wrote after the bad landing.
“That begs the question — why haven’t we built a new, modern accessible airport in New York City, the nation’s business capital? Reason: We don’t have an infrastructure plan because our federal government is paralyzed.”
-- John A. Oswald (@nyc_oz)