An on-the-run fugitive grounded flights at LaGuardia International Airport in Queens for several hours on Wednesday evening after the FBI ordered a ground stop on all departing flights so that they could search for the suspect.
Federal law enforcement officials have remained tight-lipped on what exactly went down at LaGuardia on Wednesday night but the eagle-eyed Twitter user and aviation source JonNYC noticed that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had imposed a so-called ‘ground stop’ on all departing flights at the airport.
The FAA initially noted that the reason for the ground stop was because the FBI had lost track of a fugitive at the airport and the suspect was “on the loose in the airport”.
With the possibility that the fugitive could try to sneak onto a departing flight, law enforcement ordered a long line of flights waiting to depart to remain on the ground so that agents could track the suspect.
JonNYC later added a working theory that the fugitive wasn’t exactly lost by agents in LaGuardia but that their cellphone ‘pinged’ a location at or near to the airport. This is a process known as triangulation in which law enforcement attempt to pinpoint the location of a suspect by measuring the distance of signals sent from their cellphone and three cellphone towers in a triangle shape.
Triangulation has improved in recent years but can be unreliable and wouldn’t ordinarily result in law enforcement taking such a drastic measure as grounding flights.
In either case, neither the FBI nor local enforcement has publicly commented on last night’s ground stop and LaGuardia has also remained tight-lipped on Wednesday night’s delays.
Sports broadcaster Kayla Jaxton was on one of the delayed flights affected by the ground stop. In a tweet, Kayla said that passengers on an already delayed flight were told they would be waiting even longer because “there’s a criminal on the loose at LGA so until the FBI catches them, all flights are shut down”.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.