WASHINGTON --The Federal Aviation Administration said it will have new procedures in place by Christmas to prevent flights from being stranded on runways in bad weather.
The agency is investigating an October storm that left many flights sitting on a tarmac in Hartford, Conn., for hours, with several at a stand-still for more than seven.The captain of one JetBlue flight begged for help to get his plane to a gate, reporting unruly passengers and that paraplegic and diabetic passengers needed to get off. Many of the flights had been diverted from larger airports, but the FAA said those other airports weren't aware of how many flights were being sent to Hartford. The agency said that more communication among airlines, airports and air traffic controllers would have made a big difference. FAA officials also accepted their share of responsibility, citing a scheduled maintenance shutdown at John F. Kennedy International Airport during the snowstorm, and FAA equipment at Kennedy and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey that malfunctioned in freezing temperatures. Wind shear also limited the use of some runways, which decreased the number of planes that could land at nearby airports like Kennedy, Newark, and others in New York and New Jersey. "This wasn't anybody's fault necessarily," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. "People just weren't aware of what other people were doing. That's what we're going to try to alleviate going forward." The agency wants to prevent a repeat situation, and Babbitt said in a forum that they should be able to find a solution quickly. Within the next week, the FAA will begin including airports in national and regional conference calls to discuss air traffic flow issues. The agency will also launch a hotline and a webpage to alert the FAA and airlines of problems on the ground. The Associated Press contributed to this report.