Plane skids off snowy NYC runway, stops feet from icy bay

Friday, March 6, 2015
A Delta plane rests on a berm near the water Thursday at LaGuardia Airport in New York. Delta Flight 1086, carrying 125 passengers and five crew members, veered off the runway about 11:10 a.m., authorities reported. (New York Fire Department)

NEW YORK -- 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 stopped quickly.

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

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.

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