Travel Tips

Turtles on the Tarmac Cause Delays at JFK Airport

Giant turtleThe average travel experience often includes a delay or two, as weather, traffic and mechanical problems cause trips to grind to a halt.

But today it was some of the slowest creatures on Earth that brought air traffic to a crawl at one of the nation’s busiest airports.

A runway at JFK airport in New York was briefly shut down around 8:30 a.m Wednesday morning, after an American Eagle flight crew noticed three turtles while taxiing before takeoff.

When a grounds crew went to investigate, they were surprised to find a group of 78 turtles which had emerged from an adjacent bay. They were identified as Diamondback terrapins, each weighing 2 to 3 pounds and measuring about 8 inches long.

How safe are your local runways? Check out Under Pressure, FAA Releases Data on Increasing Bird & Wildlife Strikes.

It took about 35 minutes to completely clear the runway of the invaders, which were returned safely to a wetland area further away from the tarmac. In the meantime the shutdown caused flight delays of up to 1 ½ hours at not only JFK, but also at neighboring La Guardia airport.

Plane on tarmacFederal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters said that it was not the first time the runway had been overrun by turtles. He explained that it was spawning season, a time when turtles apparently multiply and migrate.

It is also not the first time that JFK airport has had run-ins with wildlife. The adjacent wetlands are home to numerous bird species, including the Canada geese that collided with United Flight 1549 in January and caused the plane to make an emergency landing into the Hudson River.

The city has plans to euthanize about 2,000 of the geese this summer, in order to prevent the deadly bird strikes which endanger flights departing from airports all over the New York area.

By Chloe Ghoogassian and Karen Elowitt for

Learn more about the Canada geese plan with Canada Geese Removal Plan for NYC Airports Does More Than Ruffle Feathers.

Related links: Huffington Post, NBC New York, Associated Press,