IT'S A TRUE TARMAC TURTLE TALE, an ethics story at JFK International Airport in New York. This story doesn't involve the usual airport personnel who not infrequently seem to show an absence of ethical consideration for passengers.
Maybe it's the difference between indoor airport people and the outdoor guys. The suits versus the overalls. Maybe it's the florescent lights inside the terminal, or the fatigued and fussy passengers --also under those florescent lights. Grounds crews work outside. The tarmac can be hotter than hell, but at least they get real sunshine.
We're talking animal ethics. No, pilots can't help it if bird's in flight get sucked into plane engines. Neither can the birds, for that matter.
This particular story is about turtles.
A few weeks ago, a runway at John F. Kennedy Intl. Airport was shut down one morning, when at least 78 Diamondback turtles climbed out of a nearby Jamaica Bay (which surrounds the airport) and crawled onto the tarmac.
Although the reptiles are shielded by shells (developed from their ribs), it's doubtful that they could withstand the weight of your average passenger jet. A Boeing 767-300, with PW-4050s engines, has a maximum takeoff weight of 351,000 lbs. OUCH!
ROUND'EM UP GROUND CREWS
Word is that grounds crews rounded up the turtles and slipped them back into the bay's mix of salt water and freshwater just beyond the airport runway. I guess the turtles disrupted the JFK flight schedule, resulting in delays of 90 minutes. If you were waiting, sitting on the tarmac on Wednesday morning almost two weeks ago, that may be why. It wasn't the slowness of the airlines, this time, but slow turtles.
It was the pilots who gave the first warnings, according to Associated Press reports. A chorus of them began radioing the tower, as they taxied their jets out for departure, reporting turtles at the end of a runway that juts out into the water. The FAA stopped all flights for about 12 minutes around 9 a.m., then quit using the runway all together after getting reports of "massive numbers" of turtles on the tarmac. Airport ground crews collected the turtles. It took them about 35 minutes reported the Port Authority. Ahem! Were the turtles moving too fast for them? Or did they only send out two guys to pick up 78 turtles.
CAN LITTLE TURTLES HURT BIG JETS?
According to the FAA's wildlife strike database --who knew there was such a thing -- jets hit turtles a few times each year at JFK; however, there are no reports of strikes causing any damage to an airplane.
So, If the turtles (most around 8 inches long and weighing two to three pounds) can't hurt a jet (Duh!), why did the FAA put on the brakes and keep planes from taking off? Do we think they really cared about saving the turtles? Was it truly animal ethics? Maybe on take-off the planes could slide on slippery dead-turtle juice. That's probably it. Oh well, the turtles got saved this time, regardless of the reason. Hooray turtles! Let's hear it for the reptiles! Hip Hip!
But hold on, given time to actually think about it, the FAA and airport authorities may come up with something which is not in the best interest of the turtles. They'll probably put a dollar-figure on just how much money it cost for a 90-minute, take-off delay to justify what they're going to do to the turtles. I hope PETA is on standby. You know who'll win in the end -- people with money to budget, not the turtles. Money always wins.
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