A whole bunch of go-arounds turned the JFK airspace into a tangled web of flight paths

A whole bunch of go-arounds turned the JFK airspace into a tangled web of flight paths

Shortly after noon today at New York’s JFK airport, a powerful thunderstorm cell with cloud tops of 40,000 feet passed over the field and subsequently turned the NY airspace into a tangled mess.

Lightning struck the field a first time, taking down the airport’s runway visual range (RVR) equipment, which is used to measure exactly how far a pilot in the center of the runway is able to see the center line markings. Lightning strikes happen and equipment failures occur all the time, butmoments later, lightning struck yet again, this time taking out the ILS glide slope for runway 4R, the active runway. At that moment, several international heavies were on final approach, forcing missed approaches and go-arounds.

The air space around JFK quickly became a total tangled mess, as the inbound aircraft decided whether they would wait out the storm and hope the equipment would come back into service, or divert to another airport. One American Airlines 737 requested takeoff clearance, but was denied because the airspace was too cluttered with go-around traffic.

After about 20 minutes, the equipment issues were sorted out and Caribbean 420, a Boeing 737, was the first aircraft to land at JFK.

When all was said and done, TransAero 1111 and Lufthansa 400, both Boeing 747s, decided to divert to Newark in New Jersey, taking a lengthy detour through upstate New York. While inconvenient for the passengers on board, they will now enjoy the rare opportunity to fly across New York City from Newark to JFK.

Sometimes, lightning does strike twice. Next time, lets just hope it strikes something else.

A whole bunch of go-arounds turned the JFK airspace into a tangled web of flight paths

A whole bunch of go-arounds turned the JFK airspace into a tangled web of flight paths

This story written by… Jason Rabinowitz, Senior Correspondent.Jason is a New York City native who has grown up in the shadow of JFK International Airport. A true “avgeek”, he enjoys plane spotting and photography, as well taking any opportunity he can get to fly on an aircraft.

@AirlineFyer | FaceBook |

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CORRESPONDENT - NEW YORK, NY. Jason is an #AvGeek that does passenger experience research, data analysis, and writes things about airlines, airplanes and travel. Email: jason@airlinereporter.com.

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4 Comments

Heck of a good post, Jason. Thanks.
And yes… Ahem… Washington wants to put some of the ATC staff on furlough! Get a freaking grip. The quickly improved weather, or even the grace of God, was not what enabled all of those inbound flights to land safely. Yes, it was the cadre of fully qualified Air Traffic Controllers at JFK (and NY Center) that made it happen. Cutting the ATC staffing, to satisfy the Republican’s demands for a small budget is [fill in words of choice…].
As for that AA 737 pilot that pushed for his takeoff clearance, “Pull up your shorts and WAIT, dude,” would have been one response. Ever so slightly different from ATC’s usual order, they could also have said, “Taxi to [fill in] and hold your shorts!” Big kudos to the ATC staff at NY Center and JFK. Furloughs (now temporarily fixed) or cutting staff by 10%? I don’t think so… Despite the official reserve fuel requirements, a lot of those BIG jets (think LOTS of souls) coming in from the North Atlantic, do NOT have as many diversion options as one might expect, especially when multiple Big Jets want or need to use the same options. God bless the boys and girls at New York’s ATC facilities – one more time.

Thanks for the nice words, Cook. It was hectic, but JFK tower pushed through it like a champ.
As for the AA 737, he was later asked to taxi into position and use his weather radar to check out the storm. Then, he was used as a path finder through the storm. I later heard that “it didn’t work out for them,” and departures were stopped again.

In another twist, after the storm passed and runways were changed, a flock of “hundreds of birds” invaded the field, stopping everything a second time. After the storm, bugs came out of the ground, and the geese had a feast on runway 22R. Crazy day.

Brian

What website are those images from for flight tracking?

That is Planefinder.net with data coming from my antenna.
If you live close to an airport, please contact them if you want to set up coverage for your area!

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