The skies above New York City were clogged with planes waiting to land in winds gusting up to 50 mph Tuesday night, forcing long delays at two of the three major metropolitan airports and causing some flights to be diverted to other cities.
National Weather Service meteorologist Adrienne Leptich said the delays occurred because the number of planes that can land each hour must be decreased in high winds, forcing some planes to circle the region or be diverted to other airports if fuel runs low.
"The winds were a little bit stronger than we anticipated," she said. "We're getting into the season now where we have stronger storms. It's not completely out of the ordinary that this would happen."
The Federal Aviation Administration reported at 10 p.m. that some arriving flights at Newark International Airport were delayed an average of 2 hours and 8 minutes while flights into LaGuardia Airport were delayed an average 1 hour and 34 minutes. Kennedy International Airport reported minor delays.
By early Wednesday, all three airports were reporting average delays for arrivals and departures of less than 15 minutes.
Daniel Kennedy said his 4:48 p.m. Delta flight operated by Shuttle America left Madison, Wis., bound for New York's LaGuardia Airport, only to be diverted to Albany, where passengers were kept on board while the plane was refueled. It did not land in New York until shortly before midnight.
"Our gate is occupied by another aircraft diverted from LaGuardia as well," one of the plane's pilots could be heard telling passengers as Kennedy spoke to The Associated Press while the plane was on the ground in Albany.
"They tell us we can't get up because we're sitting on an active taxiway," Kennedy said. Shortly afterward, a flight attendant announced that they could get up one at a time to use a restroom.
After landing in New York, Kennedy said the flight attendants had been helpful, passing out bottled water at one point to passengers who remained in good spirits. He said he wished there had been more communication from the pilots.
"I'm impressed by how well people are behaving," he said.
Chris Kelly Singley, a Delta spokeswoman based in Atlanta, said two LaGuardia-bound Delta aircraft were diverted to Boston Tuesday night "as a direct result of the winds we were seeing in the three New York airports."
She said the diversions are necessary when fuel starts to get low as planes circle while waiting for their turn to land.
A message left Tuesday with Shuttle America's parent company, Republic Airways, was not immediately returned.
Leptich said the space between planes must be increased in bad weather conditions. She had good news for those traveling in or out of New York City through New Year's, saying the next possibility of any kind of significant storm appeared to be at least eight days away.