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Officials: Air travel delays expected Monday, too

A glider overturned at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton

A glider overturned at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach, Sunday. (March 14, 2010) Photo Credit: James Carbone

After a wild weekend at area airports courtesy of an intense nor'easter, rain and winds predicted for Monday could cause more air travel delays - but much less severe than over the weekend, aviation officials said Sunday night.

High winds and heavy rains on Saturday wreaked havoc, flipping parked planes, grounding flights and prompting many pilots to abort landings, aviation officials said.

At Kennedy Airport, where winds gusted to 75 mph, which is hurricane strength, the anemometer - a device that measures wind speed - was blown away, said Holly Baker, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Without real-time wind measurements, "we just constantly called the [National] Weather Service for an update," said Stephen Abraham, president of the JFK unit of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

One air traffic controller, in an exchange recorded on Liveatc.net, told a pilot that all wind speed measurements were "estimated."

"It's all estimated because wind measuring equipment shattered on the field because of the wind," the controller said.

The conditions caused delays of up to five hours at Kennedy and three hours at LaGuardia Airport. Some pilots decided the conditions were too risky for takeoff, and canceled the flights altogether, Baker and Abraham said.

Other pilots coming in for landings got cold feet at the last minute and performed "go-arounds" - air traffic control lingo for an aborted landing.

On Long Island, winds that gusted up to 70 mph flipped a Starduster aircraft at Brookhaven Airport and turned over a glider at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach.

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