Pilots dread flying into NYC’s airports

You are looking at an aerial shot of John F. Kennedy airport in Queens.

Close calls happen far more often at New York’s airports than fliers might like to know.

Two weeks after an Air France Airbus clipped a smaller plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport, dozens of anonymous complaints in the Aviation Safety Reporting System, a confidential website for pilots and others to disclose problems, reveal regular mishaps at LaGuardia Airport and Kennedy.

One pilot recounts accidentally landing on a runway meant for departures. Another angrily wrote he was asked to clear a plane for takeoff that had documented mechanical problems. And one plane was cleared to cross a runway but screeched to a halt at the last minute when another aircraft began its descent.

“Problems like that occur daily in those airports,” said retired United Airlines pilot Ross Aimer, who was based in New York for 15 years.

Both LaGuardia and JFK are headaches even for the most seasoned pilots, Aimer said.

“It takes a lot out of a pilot just making a simple approach,” he told Metro. “I’m not saying it’s a thing for disaster, but it’s pretty tough.”

From the mouth of a pilot

“You’re always on edge going into those airports,” Aimer said of JFK and LaGuardia. LaGuardia’s runways are shorter than most, he said. That, combined with the hundreds of aircraft buzzing around the city — and nearly constant weather conditions — make it an area many pilots would simply prefer to avoid. “Just imagine yourself in a bad traffic situation on the Triborough Bridge — all the stop and go, all the airplanes congested on the taxiways.” At Kennedy, foreign flights mean dozens of different languages in traffic conversations.

Close calls

» December 2010 at LGA: A captain complained he was asked to clear a malfunctioning aircraft. “Someone was trying to strongarm me into flying an aircraft that both myself and the dispatcher deemed UNSAFE to fly.”
» June 2010 at JFK: A JFK controller reports watching an airplane skid off the
runway, taking out lights. “Don’t land on runways when there is a big crosswind. Safety should be our main focus, not delays!”
» March 2010 at LGA: A captain complained that only one tower controller was on duty. “One controller on duty to handle all traffic movements in the air and on the ground is dangerously wrong.”
» February 2010 at LGA: “With Ground Control instructing aircraft to taxi fast, at night, they are absolutely setting up a collision.”

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter at @AlisonatMetro.


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