Speeding trucks vie with jets for airport runways


NEW YORK -- Warning to pilots at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport: New York drivers will cut off anything that gets in their way -- including airplanes.

Airport officials say they are citing an average of four cargo truck drivers a day for violations including speeding across the airfield and, in some cases, cutting off taxiing jets.

Police officers of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the airport, acknowledge that there have been several near-collisions in recent months -- and say they're amazed there hasn't been a disaster.

In recent weeks alone, violations were written up when a fuel truck crashed into the engine of an Alitalia Airlines Boeing 747-200 near a hangar and when a cargo truck that was pulling four dollies crashed into an engine of a Lan Chile Boeing 767. The cargo truck's brakes had failed, authorities said.

The problem became such a concern last year that it prompted a bulletin about safe driving from Jack Gartner, manager of Kennedy's Aeronautical Services Division.

"There have been reports of driving at excessive speeds and outside the boundaries of the designated restricted vehicle service roads, as well as cutting off taxiing aircraft," Mr. Gartner said in a May 18, 1992, bulletin.

"Vehicles must yield to aircraft and emergency equipment," the JTC bulletin said, and should not be driven faster than 20 mph in restricted areas.

Bill Cahill, a Port Authority spokesman, said more than 15,000 drivers had airfield driving permits at Kennedy.

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