Sunday 4 December 2016

Turtles invade New York airport

Published 30/06/2011 | 10:50

Captured turtles at New York's JF Kennedy airport after 150 of the creatures crawled onto the tarmac (AP)
Captured turtles at New York's JF Kennedy airport after 150 of the creatures crawled onto the tarmac (AP)
Captured turtles at New York's JF Kennedy airport after 150 of the creatures crawled onto the tarmac (AP)

Some 150 turtles crawled onto the tarmac at New York's John F Kennedy airport in search of beaches to lay their eggs, delaying dozens of flights, aviation authorities have said.

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The slow-motion stampede began about 6.45am (1045 GMT), and within three hours there were so many turtles on Runway 4L and nearby taxiways that controllers were forced to move departing flights to another runway.

"We ceded to Mother Nature," said Ron Marsico, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the airport.

Workers from the Port Authority and the US Department of Agriculture were scooping up turtles and moving them across the airport, he said. Flight delays averaged about 30 minutes.

The migration of diamondback terrapin turtles happens every year at John F Kennedy International Airport, which is built on the edge of Jamaica Bay and a federally protected park. In late June or early July the animals heave themselves out of the bay and head toward a beach to lay their eggs.

The peak of the migration usually lasts a few days, Mr Marsico said.

Several pilots, some of them stifling chuckles, began reporting turtles on Runway 4L just as the morning rush hour was beginning at JFK, according to a radio recording posted on LiveATC.net.

"Be advised 30 feet into the take-off roll, left side of the centre line, there's another turtle," called the pilot of American Airlines Flight 1009, a Boeing 767 that had just taken off bound for the Dominican Republic.

American 663, a Boeing 737 headed to Fort Lauderdale, found its way to Runway 4L blocked by three of the roving reptiles. After ground crews removed them, the plane taxied into take-off position, received take-off clearance - and was promptly blocked by more turtles.

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