Aviation News

July 8, 2009

JFK Airport Runway Closed Due to Turtles

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By: Matt Molnar
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tmnt-200Not even a half day after severe thunderstorms wreaked havoc on local airport operations, this morning JFK is battling another force of mother nature: Turtles.

Perhaps washed out of their swampy airport-side homes by the rain, a swarm of turtles have wandered onto runway 4L/22R, forcing it to close and causing delays.

From the FAA:

General Departure Delays: Due to OTHER: RWY CONTAMINATION, traffic is experiencing Gate Hold and Taxi delays between 15 minutes and 29 minutes in length and decreasing.

“Normal” taxi times at JFK can approach an hour, so these turtles could mean a solid 90 minutes of rolling around the airport/safari.

JFK Airport is almost entirely surrounded by bays, creeks, swamps and undeveloped land, on which all sorts of wildlife live happily despite the rumbling of aircraft at all hours. It is not unusual to see bird watchers standing beside plane spotters in areas such as Broad Channel Island. Other residents include rabbits, snakes, Canada geese, feral cats, and the occasional runaway show dog.

Port Authority wildlife staff have moved the turtles to a safe location, though there could be residual delays as the shift from runway 4 to runway 31 operations created quite a bottleneck.


  • Other media outlets have picked up the story and confirmed further details with Port Authority officials.
  • The pilot of a flight departing at 9:19am first reported that his plane had hit some turtles on the runway.
  • The runway was closed for 35 minutes while workers collected 78 Diamondback Terrapins. Average size: about 2 lbs and 8 inches long.
  • It’s mating season. They were horny turtles, according to a Port Authority spokesman.
  • The turtles were released at an undisclosed location away from the airport.

Stay tuned for further developments…

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