Friday, March 06, 2015

Picking up and moving forward

No, this isn't another post about mourning for our lost doggies. Rather, this has to do with yesterday's accident at LaGuardia Airport, where a landing Delta plane slid sideways and slammed into a fence near the water.

I saw on last night's news that they had a crane starting to remove the plane, but I still couldn't figure how they could finish the NTSB investigation and get the airport reopened by this morning (as they said they had). It's not like LaGuardia has lots of spare capacity. Their old runways are barely enough to do the job on a normal day.

Then today's commute to work showed me how they had adapted. My commute takes me right by the airport. It's fun (for an airplane geek like me, at least) when a jetliner flies right overhead, as it touches down on the runway that starts right next to the parkway. Since I'm heading roughly west at that point and the airplanes pass from my left to my right, I'd say that's runway 04 (yes, I've even looked up LGA's runways). My commute also gives me a good view of the other side of the airport, as I drive along the Whitestone Expressway for a short distance. From that, I know (and gather this is common, except at really small airports) that they use one runway for landings and another for takeoffs on a typical day.

On a typical day, my close pass by the end of runway 04 will either let me see planes coming in to land or planes lined up to take off. In the latter case, as each one takes off, the next moseys up (a technical aviation term) for its turn, a nice slow taxiing to the threshold of the runway.

Today, however, I saw both planes coming in and planes waiting to take off from the very same spot. I could see the line in the sky to my left and the line on the ground to my right. As I sat in traffic (did I mention it can be a lovely commute on the Grand Central Parkway?), I saw a plane land and then one of the ones on the ground taxi very quickly into position, followed by the immediate roar of its engines as it started its takeoff roll.

I guess that's the answer for now. They're doing a tightly choreographed dance, with takeoffs and landings on the same runway. The coffee machines must be working hard in the LaGuardia Tower and TRACON in Westbury. As exciting as it sounds, I'm glad it's not me in one of those air traffic controller seats. The stress level must be huge today! (And I doubt the passengers even realize--at least most of them. In fact, I'm sure any number of the passengers have been grumbling about delays, without giving a thought to what all this takes. Anyhow, I'm impressed!)

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