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FAA safety violations at New York's airports

February 1, 2013 2:32:01 PM PST
There are more safety problems for New York's three major airports.

They've had problems on their runways for years. You'd think those safety issues would have been resolved.

They haven't.

So the most dangerous part of your flight at LaGuardia, JFK, or Newark may be on the runway.

When FAA inspectors performed their last annual safety audits at the three major airports, they found them to be out of compliance.

The Port Authority says the violations were minor and have been fixed.

But pilots who rely on runway lights and signs for safe movement might see things differently.

They are among the nation's busiest airports. That's why runway maintenance is critical to their safe operations.

But FAA Inspection reports Eyewitness News has obtained show JFK, Newark and LaGuardia Airports have among the highest number of safety deficiencies.

LaGuardia had 15 violations, followed by JFK with 19. Inspectors found 23 safety problems at Newark.

Among the violations were taxiway markings that are "barely visible at night" or are ''improperly located" and runway lights that "were OTS", out-of-service.

"Under anyone of those circumstances, I would stop my aircraft and ask for guidelines from ground control," said J.P. Tristani, a former airline pilot.

A commercial airline pilot for 35 years says the poor runway maintenance could create dangerous confusion for a pilot.

"Because of the signage, improper striping, improper lighting, all of those things are a distraction to a pilot," Tristani said.

At JFK, inspectors found numerous problems with training records for "aircraft rescue and firefighting" operations.

At LaGuardia, problems with ''wildlife management'' brought a violation for allowing "conditions creating a hazard attractant", meaning birds which in 2009, caused Flight 1549 out of LaGuardia to make an emergency crash landing in the Hudson.

"LaGuardia is not an airport you want to hear about wildlife," Tristani said.

Three years ago, an Eyewitness News investigation uncovered nearly identical runway maintenance problems at the three airports.

Undercover video from that report shows a major JFK taxiway with lights out of service for more than a quarter mile. The latest inspections show little has changed.

"This has become repetitive. The FAA needs to be firm. You're looking at an airport shutdown if you don't correct these problems," Tristani said.

The Port Authority insists the safety deficiencies are "minor" and have all been corrected.

But the same annual FAA inspection at Chicago's O'Hare Airport found zero deficiencies.

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