Officials said Delta Air Lines flight 2231 heading to Atlanta slid off a taxiway, which is adjacent to the runway, shortly before 6:30 p.m. There were 77 people on board. No injuries were reported.
Airport crews are continuing to work with the airline to remove the plane, an airport spokesperson said Thursday. Heavy equipment was brought in to help lift and move the aircraft back onto the pavement.
Two runways remained open and and there was no impact to operations at the airport.
The plane involved was a Boeing 717, which has three seats on one side and two seats on the other in the main cabin.
Heavy snow showers were pushing through the region Wednesday evening, but it is not clear at this point if weather was a factor in the incident. Severe Weather Team 11 Chief Meteorologist Stephen Cropper said visibility at the time was less than a mile and it was snowing. He also said there was at least an inch of snow on the ground.
The plane slanted downward toward the nose after sliding off the taxiway. It took several hours for emergency crews to get there and get people off the aircraft, according to a Channel 11 News crew at the scene.
A slide could not be used to get people off the plane due to the angle of the plane. Firefighters had to use ladders. Buses were used to shuttle people back to the terminal.
Channel 11 News talked with one woman on the plane who said most people didn’t panic. She said it just felt like the plane had come to a stop.
A spokesperson for Delta said Wednesday night in a statement:
“While on taxi-out prior to departure, Delta flight 2231 from Pittsburgh to Atlanta exited the taxiway paved surface. Delta teams worked with the airport authority to safely transport customers back to the terminal. We apologize to our customers for the delay and inconvenience and are working to re-accommodate them as quickly as possible.”
On Thursday, a spokesperson sent this additional statement:
“Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and people. That’s why Delta is conducting a full review of Flight 2231 on Feb. 10, in coordination with the Allegheny County Airport Authority and other aviation stakeholders.
Delta teams are working to safely move the aircraft from the ground surface near the taxiway this afternoon. We will then be able to expedite checked bags to our customers.
Many customers chose to continue their travel late Wednesday evening on an alternate aircraft Delta provided, while others departed this morning on a regularly scheduled flight. We have been in contact with all customers and apologize for the inconvenience.”
What was the condition of the taxiway and runway when this happened?
“It’s really the biggest fear of any airport operations, safety and making sure nothing like that happens,” said Nino Sapone.
Sapone is the former operations director at PIT. He said it is critical to continually assess the runways and taxiways during bad weather.
The FAA’s own systems showed the taxiway had dry snow cover over patchy ice shortly after 6 p.m. Wednesday evening. Observations showed 100% snow cover on nearby runways and snow removal was taking place.
Sapone said FAA investigators will look at when the taxiway was treated, if crews did a friction test and whether it should have been closed sooner.