NEW YORK — For passengers flying into LaGuardia Airport, the majestic New York City skyline cannot help but command attention.
But for pilots, especially pilots landing planes on Runway 13, it is the Flushing Bay that looms large.
That runway, one of two at LaGuardia, is a 7,000-foot stretch of asphalt and concrete, partially laid on steel piers that extend out over the water. The runway can freeze fast in winter, but even in good weather, there is little room for error.
On Thursday, at the height of a snowstorm, Delta Air Lines Flight 1086 touched down on Runway 13 shortly after 11 a.m., veering out of control almost instantly.
It skidded off to the left and then careened up an earthen berm, crashed through a fence, and came to a stop just moments before plunging into the frigid bay.
None of the 127 passengers and five crew members were seriously injured, but many passengers described a few harrowing minutes.
Steve Blazejewski, who was in a window seat on the left side, said the plane felt "out of control" almost as soon as it touched down. He said it seemed to veer at an angle of about 20 degrees as it bumped along the runway.
"We were skidding forward but veering off to the left," said Blazejewski, 39, a real estate executive with Prudential who was traveling on business from his home in Georgia. He said he began to worry as the bay quickly got closer.
"I said to myself that we were going to go into the water," he recounted in a phone interview.
He said he recalled the US Airways flight that landed in the Hudson River six years ago. Then, because he was sitting next to an emergency exit door, he said, "My next thought was: How do I get this door open?"
Blazejewski, a Navy veteran, never had to answer that question because the wing beside him was damaged. Flight attendants guided him and the other passengers to exit onto the right wing, which also was damaged, as were the plane's nose and tail, he said.
Several other passengers took to social media even before they had escaped the plane.
"We just crash landed at LGA. I'm terrified," Jaime Primak, a blogger and publicist, wrote on Twitter, using the airport's abbreviation. In a second post, sent later, she wrote: "We have all been evacuated. Everyone is safe."
Fire officials said 28 passengers had minor injuries. Five were taken to area hospitals for treatment. Fire crews at the scene contained a fuel leak.
The MD-88 aircraft was arriving from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where it took off shortly after 9 a.m.
Patrick J. Foye, the head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, praised the pilot's efforts.
"I think the pilot did everything he could to slow the aircraft down," said Foye, who also noted that the runway was plowed shortly before the plane landed.