Opponents of a garbage transfer station under construction near LaGuardia Airport are pressing their case in the wake of a bird strike last week that forced a Delta flight with 179 people on board to make an emergency return to Kennedy Airport.
A bird strike shortly after takeoff forced a Delta 757 to make an emergency landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport with 179 people on board last Thursday afternoon.
No one was hurt on April 19 as the Los Angeles-bound 757 returned to JFK with one of its two engines dead and smoke in the passenger cabin.
Ken Paskar, president of Friends of LaGuardia Airport, a vocal opponent of the transfer station at College Point and party to a lawsuit to stop it, issued a statement on Friday saying that Thursday’s incident must not be taken as an isolated one.
Several days later another bird strike forced an emergency landing by a JetBlue flight at Westchester Airport.
“It’s crystal clear that we have a bird problem at New York’s airports and that the crisis will only get worse if the Bloomberg Administration is successful in putting a new garbage station only 735 yards from the end of runway 13/31 at LaGuardia Airport,” Paskar said.
The building would be less than 2,200 feet from the end of the runway. Opponents of the project, including Jim Hall, head of the National Transportation Safety Board under President Clinton, say the garbage at the site and the rats attracted to it will draw birds that feed off them, putting even more birds into the air.
Paskar said birds are intelligent, and will exploit any new source of food. “Transporting 3,000 tons of garbage a day right by the foot of a major airport runway is dangerous, if not insane,” he said.
The city insists the building will be so perfectly sealed so as to not attract animals.
Statistics obtained from the the Federal Aviation Administration state that aircraft operating in and out of LaGuardia reported 146 wildlife strikes in 2010 and 137 in 2011. There have been 17 this year between Jan. 1 and March 31, the last date for which there is data.
Kennedy saw 220 strikes in 2010 and 257 last year, but only four between the start of this year and March 31.
The Delta pilot in Thursday’s incident notified the JFK control tower of the emergency as the plane lost its right engine.
The website for Boeing, which manufactures the 757, said the plane is outfitted with two Rolls Royce or Pratt & Whitney engines. Different models can carry between 200 and 228 passengers and crew.
The airline did not respond to messages seeking comment on the accident and the performance of its cockpit crew.
Paskar and other opponents of the garbage station near 13/31 have repeatedly pointed out that the region’s and nation’s most infamous bird strike resulted in the Miracle on the Hudson landing on Jan. 15, 2009 when a large flock of geese destroyed both engines on US Airways Flight 1549 out of LaGuardia.
Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, an Air Force Academy graduate and experienced glider pilot, along with co-pilot Jeff Skiles, successfully ditched the Airbus A3200 in the Hudson River. Passengers sustained various injuries and suffered from exposure, but all survived.
Kennedy Airport sits on Jamaica Bay, the site of a federal wildlife sanctuary, and the potential for increased bird strikes has been used by critics of runway expansion onto the bay.
Expanding Kennedy runways into a bird sanctuary “is a bad combination,” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) in a recent interview with the Chronicle.