Transcript from LaGuardia Tower Regarding Delta 1086 Runway Egress

A Delta MD-88 landed at LaGuardia Airport this morning and slid off the runway, hitting a dirt berm before coming to a stop with the nose of the plane extended over the water. Lots of reports coming out now with more details of the weather and other aspects of the incident and I’m not there to provide any better insight or analysis than what they have available. But, thanks to, I gave a listen to the tower communications related to the incident. It seems that the Delta aircraft never communicated with the tower after the landing based on the recording, but the tower tried several times to contact the plane. And there is some interesting interaction between emergency services and the tower communications.

Diagram of the airport including marks of the fire station where Car 100 likely dispatched from (1), where Car 100 crossed the runway (2) and where the plane stopped (4). Click for a bigger version.

I put time stamps in there based on the point in the initial two 30 minute recordings (1, 2) from where I heard the communications. I’ve also made a composite with the end of the first and the beginning of the second so you can listen yourself to just the incident without switching recordings. The entries marked “(T)” are communication initiated from the tower. The rest are from planes or emergency services vehicles.

29:05 – Tower, Delta 1086 joining you on ILS for runway one three

29:15 (T) – Delta 1086, LaGuardia Tower. Winds zero three zero at niner. Runway one three cleared to land. Breaking action reported good by a airbus and regional jet. There will be a departure on runway four prior to your arrival. Runway one three RVR touchdown greater than 6000, rollout 3500.

29:30 – Copy all, clear to land on runway one three. Delta 1086.

<Another plane, Delta 1999, is cleared to land at this point on the same runway reporting the same visibility numbers>

2:38 (T) – Delta 1086

2:43 (T) – Delta 1086

2:50 (T) – Delta 1086

2:59 (T) – Delta 1086

3:19 (T)– Delta 1086, tower. You with me?

3:30 – Tower, Car 100 crossing Runway 4 at Papa (location 2 on the image)

3:33 (T) – Car 100 cross Runway 4 at Papa

3:40 (T) – Delta 1086, Tower

3:45 – Tower, Car 100: Runway One Three is closed.

3:54 – Red team to go on to One Three

3:57 – Tower, do you copy, Car 100? Runway 13 is closed.

4:02 (T) – Car 100, you say that runway one three is closed?

4:06 – Affirmative. One three is closed.

4:10 – Team red is out

4:15 – Tower, you’ve got an aircraft off the runway, uh.

4:20 (T) – Delta 1999 go around. Climb, maintain 2000

4:22 – 1999 going around

4:25 – The airport is closed. The airport is closed. We’ve got a Three Four.

4:29 (T) – Car 100, say again??

4:33 – Tower, you have an aircraft off three one on the north vehicle service road. (Location 4 on the image) Please advise crash rescue. LaGuardia Airport is closed at this time.

4:45 – Afternoon, Tower. Delta 2522 is on the ILS for One Three.

4:52 (T) – Delta 2522, LaGuardia Tower. Go Around

5:30 – Tower, are you talking to the flight crew of the MD-80?

5:36 (T) – I’m calling up Delta 1086. No response.

5:40 OK, sir. If he comes up he’s leaking fuel on the left side of his aircraft heavily.

5:45 (T) – He’s leaking, you said leaking fuel?

5:47 – Afirm, his left wing is ruptured.

There are a couple other bits in there with vectors for other aircraft diverting away but I didn’t transcribe them. And there are some quiet parts where presumably conversations are happening on other channels.

And, while this is absolutely crazy speculation and may prove to be completely unfounded, it does seem that the controller had no visual contact with the plane when it was off the side of the runway. That said, the airport was operating under reduced visibility conditions with the tower reporting “RVR” numbers to the pilots which suggests that the visibility was sufficiently bad that not being able to see the far end of the runway is entirely possible. The emergency vehicles did get an alert somehow that things were amiss because Car 100 dispatched and crossed the field while the tower was trying to contact the aircraft. Ultimately it was the emergency vehicle we relayed the situation back up to the tower and closed the field.

UPDATE: I’ve been informed that Car 100 actually is likely a plow or other, similar maintenance vehicle and not an emergency vehicle. Which also suggests that it may have been sheer luck they were crossing over towards where the plane went off the runway and not triggered by an alarm. The plot thickens….

Plenty more news will be uncovered with this story in the days and weeks to come. But, for now, this is (at least to me) a most interesting bit of insight into how things were running at the airport when the runway excursion occurred.

n.b. – Post & image updated to reflect position 4 is where the plane stopped, not 3 as previously suggested.

A few other bits I’ve pulled from Twitter:

Delta Statement:


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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.