JetBlue Flight Pilot Pleaded for Help During Tarmac Ordeal

JetBlue blamed weather, infrastructure issues for 7-hour stranding.

ByABC News
October 30, 2011, 11:19 AM

Oct. 30, 2011 — -- The pilot of a JetBlue plane stuck on the tarmac for seven hours full of increasingly angry and frustrated passengers pleaded for assistance from airport officials, telling them he "can't seem to get any help from our own company."

"I got a problem here on the airplane, I'm gonna need to have the cops on board," the pilot said, according to cockpit recordings posted on "There's a cop car sitting in front of me right here right now. I need some air stairs brought over here and the cops brought onboard the airplane.

"Look, you know we can't seem to get any help from our own company, I apologize for this, but is there any way you can get a tug and a tow bar out here to us and get us towed somewhere to a gate or something," he said. "I don't care. Take us anywhere."

ABC News has learned that the Department of Transportation's Aviation Consumer Protection division is investigating the delay involving Jet Blue Flight 504, as well as a couple of other flights, that occurred Saturday. The investigation began this morning.

If the government determines any airline violated the tarmac delay rule, that carrier could be fined as much as $27,500 per passenger.

The more than 100 passengers on a JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Newark, N.J., were stranded for more than seven hours without food, water or functioning bathrooms when the plane was diverted to Bradley Airport near Hartford, Conn.

The flight took off from Fort Lauderdale around 10 a.m., but was unable to land in Newark Liberty International Airport because the glide slope due to weather conditions.

A passenger told ABC News that after the plane circled Newark Airport, the pilot scared the passengers by telling them that they only had 30 minutes of fuel left but Bradley Airport, where the plane was diverted to, is about an hour away. He then got back on PA system to calm them down, and clarify they did in fact have enough fuel to reach Bradley.

The plane landed at Bradley around 1:30 p.m.

Once on the ground, the plane did not move until 9 p.m.

According to the same passenger, between 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., the pilot told the passengers that they are waiting to de-ice, re-fuel, and then they will head back to Newark. Around 4 p.m., a Bradley Airport representative boarded the plane to assess the situation.

The plan was to land there, fuel up and fly back to Newark, assuming the glide slope equipment -- a signal light that jets lock on to as they approach for landing -- would be up and running again, JetBlue officials said.

However, the plan had to altered because once Flight 504 landed at Hartford, the airport was inundated with flight diversions.

"The airport infrastructure was just overwhelmed," said JetBlue spokeswoman Jenny Dervin.

According to JetBlue, there were at least 23 diversions there, including six JetBlue flights and an international flight from American Airlines.

"We worked with the airport to secure services, including remote deplaning and lav servicing. Obviously, we would have preferred deplaning much sooner than we did, but our flights were six of the 23 reported diversion into Hartford, including international flights. The airport experienced intermittent power outages, which made refueling and jetbridge deplaning difficult. We apologize to the customers impacted by this confluence of events, as it remains JetBlue's responsibly to not simply provide safe and secure travel, but a comfortable experience as well," according to a statement from JetBlue.

Passengers asked to be let off, noting the three-hour bill of rights law, but the pilot told them they had to stay onboard.

For the next four hours, passengers were told that the airport has only one tow bar to bring the planes in off the tarmac and that international flights were the priority.

Between 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., a paraplegic man began to complain of intense pain. According to passengers near him, he had not been moved for leg circulation or been taken to the bathroom since before boarding the plane in Florida.

State police, Emergency Medical Services and an ambulance were called in for him. Other passengers were then allowed to leave the plane.