A gust of wind unexpectedly hit an Alaska Airlines jet Sunday on the Dillingham runway as it was preparing to taxi from the terminal, causing it to slide on the icy tarmac. That’s according to an emailed statement from the airline on Monday.
The jet was carrying 74 passengers and four crew members. The airline said no one was injured, and no equipment was damaged.
Gorden Isaacs was one of the passengers on the plane. He and his wife were headed to a family wedding. They had been trying to fly out for days. On Sunday, they were hopeful because the jet from Anchorage made it to Dillingham that afternoon.
The rain started to pick up as they checked in and boarded the plane.
“As soon as it started moving, I believe, it started sliding and the wind turned it around about 45 degrees I think, so the jet blast was pointed right at the terminal,” Isaacs said.
Isaacs said it wasn’t obvious that they were sliding from inside the plane.
“But once I saw how the airplane turned around, the wind was coming straight across the runway. I’m a pilot, so I know that the wind will tend to weather vane the plane so the nose is pointed toward the wind, and that’s what happened — it pushed us around to where we were pointing straight toward the runway,” he said.
Isaacs said the ground crew came out to spread sand around the plane.
The airline ended up canceling the flight because of the worsening weather. It then took passengers off the plane in small groups.
“They brought a lift truck and unloaded us off the back door of the airplane into this lift truck, five people at a time, and let us down on the ground and they had a nice trail sanded to walk in,” Isaacs said. “But it was so windy even on the sanded trail it was hard to stand up.”
Rona Halford was on the plane with her mother.
“It was just really icy,” she said. “The apron was icy, the walkway was. I thought they handled it professionally, and the ground crew worked really hard to get everybody off carefully. I thought it was handled well.”
The airline re-booked the passengers on the Monday flight, which did make it out. One passenger brought smoked fish to the pilots on behalf of the community as thanks for how they managed the situation.