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)
Delta jet skids off snow-slick runway at NYC's LaGuardia
(1 p.m. UPDATE)
THE LATEST FROM REUTERS:
A Delta Air Lines jetliner with 127 passengers and five crew members aboard slid off the runway upon landing during a snowstorm at New York's LaGuardia Airport on Thursday, but officials said there were no serious injuries.
Delta flight 1086 was landing at LaGuardia after a morning flight from Atlanta, the airline said. The passengers were evacuated safely from the aircraft on inflatable slides and moved to the airport terminal on buses.
Images from local media showed the Delta plane on a snowy runway area with its nose smashed into a fence at the edge of Flushing Bay. A fuel spill was caused by accident but has been contained, local media said.
Multiple emergency rescue crews were on the scene and a man and two women, one of them wearing a neck brace, were seen being taken away from the scene in ambulances.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it is investigating the incident at LaGuardia, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the operator of the three main airports serving the New York metropolitan area.
LaGuardia's runways were closed soon after the incident, the Federal Aviation Administration said, a routine procedure when such incidents occur.
The airport is expected to reopen at 7 p.m. EST (0000 GMT), at the same time as a winter storm warning was to be lifted, the FAA said.
Delta said it would work with all authorities to look into what happened.
The airline's shares were down 2.3 percent at $44.11 in Thursday afternoon trading.
Following the incident, passengers on the plane took to social media.
"I felt for sure that we were going into that water. Thankfully, we did not," a passenger who identified himself as Aaron Smith wrote on Twitter.
LaGuardia Airport, the smallest of the three airports serving the New York City area, has been the scene of two previous crashes involving wintry weather in recent history.
On March 2, 1994, Continental Airlines flight 705 bound for Denver aborted takeoff during a snowstorm and slid off the runway into a ditch. There were no fatalities, although 29 people were injured.
Two years earlier, USAir Flight 405 headed for Cleveland crashed during a snowy takeoff at LaGuardia, killing 27 people of the 51 on board. The crash was later blamed on icing on its wings.
EARLIER METRO COVERAGE:
LaGuardia will be closed until as late as 7 p.m., when the current storm front is expected to clear NYC.
Six injuries have been reported.
There are reports that the pilot had requested to circle the airport and not to land in the low-visibility, snowy conditions.
No planes are landing or taking off.The jetliner was an MD-88 aircraft, which Delta said had 125 passengers and five crew members aboard.
Delta just released to statement that passengers are being put on buses and taken to safety.A thorough investigation is promised.
"Our priority is ensuring our customers and crew members are safe," the airline said. "Delta will work with all authorities and stakeholders to look into what happened in this incident."
A Delta jetliner skidded off LaGuardia Airport's runway and slammed into a fence, the FDNY has confirmed.There were no injuries, according to initial reports.The accident happened about 11 a.m. Visibility at the time was a less than a quarter mile.
Giants TE Larry Donnell unhurt after plane skids off the runway while landing at LaGuardia Airport. » http://t.co/sbPyg4ASEP— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 5, 2015