NYC landing mishap raises questions on runway snow closures

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NYC landing mishap raises questions on runway snow closures
A plane skidded off a snowy runway at LaGuardia Airport and into a fence Thursday, according to witnesses.
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 5: In this handout from the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), A Delta Air Lines jetliner rests on a berm at LaGuardia Airport March 5, 2015 in Queens, New York City. Delta flight 1086, flying to New York from Atlanta, reportedly skidded off the runway after it landed during a snowstorm. (Photo by New York City Fire Department (FDNY) via Getty Images)
A Delta plane rests on a berm near the water at LaGuardia Airport in New York, Thursday, March, 2015. Delta Flight 1086, carrying 125 passengers and five crew members, veered off the runway at around 11:10 a.m., authorities said. Six people suffered non-life-threatening injuries, said Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK -MARCH 5: A plane arriving in New York City amid snowy conditions skidded off the runway at LaGuardia International Airport on Thursday morning, according to authorities. Delta flight 1086 from Atlanta skidded into a fence shortly after 11 a.m., the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said in a statement. (Photo by Mark Klafter for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
In this image taken from video provided by passenger Larry Donnell, a New York Giants NFL football player, passengers are evacuated after a Delta plane skidded off the runway at LaGuardia Airport during a snowstorm, Thursday, March, 5 2015, in New York. Delta Flight 1086, carrying 125 passengers and five crew members, veered off the runway at around 11:10 a.m., authorities said. Six people suffered non-life-threatening injuries, said Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. (AP Photo/Larry Donnell)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK -MARCH 5: A plane arriving in New York City amid snowy conditions skidded off the runway at LaGuardia International Airport on Thursday morning, according to authorities. Delta flight 1086 from Atlanta skidded into a fence shortly after 11 a.m., the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said in a statement. (Photo by Mark Klafter for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK -MARCH 5: A plane arriving in New York City amid snowy conditions skidded off the runway at LaGuardia International Airport on Thursday morning, according to authorities. Delta flight 1086 from Atlanta skidded into a fence shortly after 11 a.m., the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said in a statement. (Photo by Mark Klafter for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
In this image provided by passenger Larry Donnell, a New York Giants NFL football player, passengers are evacuated after a Delta plane skidded off the runway at LaGuardia Airport during a snowstorm, Thursday, March, 5 2015, in New York. Delta Flight 1086, carrying 125 passengers and five crew members, veered off the runway at around 11:10 a.m., authorities said. Six people suffered non-life-threatening injuries, said Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. (AP Photo/Larry Donnell)
A plane that skidded off the runway at LaGuardia Airport hangs over the edge of the runway in New York, Thursday, March 5, 2015. The plane, from Atlanta, skidded off the runway while landing, and crashed through a chain-link fence. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Delta plane skids off runway at LaGuardia airport in New York http://t.co/vaznrDbHWu http://t.co/dN4QWmrYLQ
This is how close to disaster this incident at LGA was. Photographer: Unknown. http://t.co/R5RWe822Nz
Crews work near a Delta plane that rests on a berm near the water at LaGuardia Airport, Thursday, March 5, 2015, in New York. The plane, from Atlanta, skidded off the runway while landing, and crashed through a chain-link fence. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
CORRECTS SOURCE TO NYPD SPECIAL OPERATIONS DIVISION - In this image released by the New York Fire Department, a Delta plane rests on a berm near the water at LaGuardia Airport in New York, Thursday, March 5, 2015. Delta Flight 1086, carrying 125 passengers and five crew members, veered off the runway at around 11:10 a.m., authorities said. Six people suffered non-life-threatening injuries, said Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. (AP Photo/NYPD Special Operations Division)
CORRECTS SOURCE TO NYPD SPECIAL OPERATIONS DIVISION - In this image released by the NYPD Special Operations Division, a Delta plane rests on a berm near the water at LaGuardia Airport in New York, Thursday, March, 5 2015. Delta Flight 1086, carrying 125 passengers and five crew members, veered off the runway at around 11:10 a.m., authorities said. Six people suffered non-life-threatening injuries, said Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. (AP Photo/NYPD Special Operations Division)
A Delta plane passes Delta Flight 1086 that rests on a berm near the water at LaGuardia Airport, Thursday, March 5, 2015, in New York. The plane, from Atlanta, skidded off the runway while landing, and crashed through a chain-link fence. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
We have all been evacuated. Everyone is safe. Thank you for your prayers. God is good.
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 5: In this handout from the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), A Delta Air Lines jetliner rests on a berm at LaGuardia Airport March 5, 2015 in Queens, New York City. Delta flight 1086, flying to New York from Atlanta, reportedly skidded off the runway after it landed during a snowstorm. (Photo by New York City Fire Department (FDNY) via Getty Images)
030515: Graphic shows location of plane that skidded off a LaGuardia Airport runway; 2c x 3 inches; 96.3 mm x 76 mm;
A plane that skidded off the runway at LaGuardia Airport hangs over the edge of the runway in New York, Thursday, March 5, 2015. The plane, from Atlanta, skidded off the runway while landing, and crashed through a chain-link fence. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
CORRECTS SOURCE TO NYPD SPECIAL OPERATIONS DIVISION - In this image released by the NYPD Special Operations Division, emergency personnel look over a Delta plane that rests on a berm near the water at LaGuardia Airport in New York, Thursday, March 5, 2015. Delta Flight 1086, carrying 125 passengers and five crew members, veered off the runway at around 11:10 a.m., authorities said. Six people suffered non-life-threatening injuries, said Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. (AP Photo/NYPD Special Operations Division)
In this image released by the New York Fire Department, a Delta plane rests on a berm near the water at LaGuardia Airport in New York, Thursday, March 5, 2015. Delta Flight 1086, carrying 125 passengers and five crew members, veered off the runway at around 11:10 a.m., authorities said. Six people suffered non-life-threatening injuries, said Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. (AP Photo/New York Fire Department)
In this image released by the New York Fire Department, a Delta plane rests on a berm near the water at LaGuardia Airport in New York, Thursday, March 5, 2015. Delta Flight 1086, carrying 125 passengers and five crew members, veered off the runway at around 11:10 a.m., authorities said. Six people suffered non-life-threatening injuries, said Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. (AP Photo/New York Fire Department)
A Delta plane rests on a berm near the waters of Flushing Bay at LaGuardia Airport in New York on Thursday, March 5, 2015. The plane, from Atlanta, skidded off the runway during landing, and crashed through a chain-link fence. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
We just crash landed at LGA. I'm terrified. Please...
@NorahODonnell reporting from LGA where there is one apparent injury from delta flight @cbsnews http://t.co/qRDZIba2ae
Not good, but hearing that all are safe: RT “@NYCAviation: BREAKING: Delta MD-80 off the runway at #LGA. #breaking http://t.co/E6TqLp03yP”
My day so far. #crashland http://t.co/dpNnGP5oQk
The scene at LaGuardia Airport after a Delta plane skids off the runway in the snow: http://t.co/3cpe6CYjzj http://t.co/qE0FXx9Yyf
Approximate location of where the Delta plane skidded off the runway at #LGA. http://t.co/6mmXE4VgLt
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NEW YORK (AP) -- The rough landing of a Delta jetliner at LaGuardia Airport in a driving snowstorm just minutes after the runway had been plowed has raised questions about when airports should close runways due to snow or ice.

Six people were hurt when the plane skidded off a runaway midday Thursday and crashed through a chain-link fence, its nose coming to rest just feet from the roiling waters of an icy bay.

There's no rule about how much snow or ice leads to a runway closing. Instead, the Federal Aviation Administration requires airports to measure runways during winter storms to assure planes can safely brake: A specially equipped vehicle races down the runway with a computer checking braking action, and if the runway fails the test it must be closed.

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."

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending an investigator to retrieve the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders and to document damage to the plane.

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.

LaGuardia's two runways are "reasonably short" but still safe, said former US Airways pilot John M. Cox, who's now CEO of consultancy Safety Operating Systems.

At airports with longer runways, pilots glide a few feet above the runway and gently touch down. At LaGuardia, Cox said, "you put the airplane on the ground and stop it."

On Flight 1086 from Atlanta, passengers said there was a surreal calm as the plane bounced and slid off the runway, but some children started crying after it came to a stop. It was only then that everyone realized how close they had come to plunging into freezing saltwater.

Passengers were told to exit over the broken right wing because the door out the back was too close to the water. They climbed off the plane dressed in their heavy winter coats and scarves and tromped through several inches of snow.

"As we walked across the runway, it was covered with so much snow that I was wondering: Who decided it was safe to land here?" said passenger Jane Kaufman, of Gainesville, Florida.

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