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Quake Disruptions Delay Almost 400 Flights in Northeast U.S.

Aug. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Airline flight delays rippled across the northeastern U.S. after today’s earthquake, with almost 400 planes running at least a half-hour late at New York and Washington airports.

The Federal Aviation Administration said inspections for damage were under way. Some flights were canceled, with Delta Air Lines Inc. expecting to scrub 15 at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport and about a dozen from Washington’s Ronald Reagan National, a spokesman, Eric Torbenson, said in an e-mail.

Planes are taking off and landing at Kennedy, New York’s LaGuardia and Washington’s Dulles, FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said in an e-mail. Flights to Kennedy, Dulles, Reagan National and New Jersey’s Newark Liberty were held at times at their origin airports, according to the FAA.

“You approach restarting with some caution and, as operations proceed and things prove to be normal, schedules can get back to normal relatively quickly,” George Hamlin, president of Hamlin Transportation Consulting in Fairfax, Virginia, said in an interview. “It’s better than a snowstorm in terms of recovery.”

About 390 flights to or from Kennedy, Reagan National, Dulles and Newark were delayed at least 30 minutes, five times more than usual, said Daniel Baker, chief executive officer of Houston-based data tracker FlightAware.com. More than 180 were delayed more than an hour.

Diverted Flights

Thirty-two flights headed for Kennedy were diverted to other airports, according to FlightStats.com, which tracks aircraft movements.

Two were United Continental Holdings Inc. flights arriving Los Angeles and San Francisco, which were sent to Pittsburgh and Hartford, Connecticut, said Megan McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based carrier. AMR Corp.’s American Airlines had four flights rerouted, said Ed Martelle, a spokesman.

The quake occurred at 1:51 p.m. local time in Virginia and was measured at magnitude 5.8 by the U.S. Geological Survey, making the temblor the biggest to hit the state in more than a century.

Passenger terminals at Reagan National and Dulles remain open, with “no major damage that I’m aware of,” Tara Hamilton, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, said in a telephone interview.

Equipment Checks

“Right now we don’t have any major equipment outages” in the air traffic control system, said Lynn Lunsford, an FAA spokesman. Airport runways and equipment inspections were under way to check for damage, he said.

FAA employees were sent home for the day, according to an e-mailed advisory from the agency.

Philadelphia’s airport experienced departure delays of at least 45 minutes, according to an FAA website.

“We felt it really good here,” Todd Lehmacher, a spokesman for US Airways Group Inc. in Philadelphia, said in an interview. The Transportation Security Administration was inspecting security checkpoints in Philadelphia, he said.

Southwest Airlines Co. flights experienced “minimal delays” at Baltimore Washington International Airport, and expects normal operations “in the next few hours,” said Whitney Eichinger, a spokeswoman for the Dallas-based airline.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mary Jane Credeur in Atlanta at mcredeur@bloomberg.net; Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at maryc.s@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net

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