It was a slow-motion stampede at New York's Kennedy airport Wednesday when about 150 turtles crawled onto the runway in search of beaches to lay their eggs, delaying dozens of flights.
The incident took place around 6:45 am, and in a span of three hours there were enough turtles on Runway 4L and nearby taxiways that forced controllers to move departing flights to another runway, an AP report said.
We ceded to Mother Nature, said Ron Marsico, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Workers from the Port Authority and the U.S. Department of Agriculture had to scoop up the turtles and move them across the airport.The flights had to be delayed for about 30 minutes, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said.
The migration of turtles takes place every year around June and July near the Kennedy airport, built on Jamaica Bay. Usually, they head towards a beach to lay their eggs and the journey lasts for a few days.
Several pilots began reporting turtles on Runway 4L just when the morning rush hour began at JFK.
American 663, a Boeing 737 headed to Fort Lauderdale, found its way to runway 4L blocked by three of the roving reptiles. After ground crews removed them, the plane taxied into takeoff position, received takeoff clearance - and was promptly blocked by more turtles, the report said.
American and JetBlue did not have to face any major disruption to their flights.
We hope for faster animals next time, JetBlue said in a statement.
For aviation officials, unruly wildlife is a serious concern at JFK and nearby LaGuardia Airport, which is situated on shorelines populated by geese, turtles, ducks, frogs and other animals.
Planes at JFK also have a history of collision with gulls, hawks, swans and an osprey, according to the FAA's database of wildlife strikes. In February, a superjumbo Airbus 380 flown by Emirates Airlines sucked an unidentified bird into one of its massive engines, causing about $30,000 worth of damage, the database shows, according to the report.