Michael Rittershaus’ wife texted him from Gretna, right before his Southwest Airlines jet landed.
Stephanie wanted him to drive carefully. She had tried to park in the driveway, and it was too slick.
Rittershaus said he wondered to himself if they had de-iced the runway. Soon, the plane landed, and he realized that it was no ordinary conclusion to the flight.
The plane slid off the runway.
“It wasn’t too scary,” said Rittershaus, who was returning from a business trip in California with a stopover in Las Vegas. “Yep. Apparently it was icy out.”
None of the 150 passengers and six crew members on Flight 1643 from Las Vegas were injured, said Steve McCoy, manager of airport affairs at the Omaha Airport Authority.
The plane landed in Omaha at 2:02 p.m., a short time after freezing drizzle had begun to coat roads, sidewalks and vehicles. The airport was closed for about 2½ hours after the incident, reopening about 4:40 p.m., and a small number of flights were diverted and canceled Friday afternoon.
Benny Salz, 30, a passenger, said that after the plane touched down, it felt like the aircraft moved in an S-shape before straightening out.
“Then all of a sudden it kind of felt like it hit a black ice patch, and then it went sideways,” said Salz, a producer in Los Angeles who was back in Omaha for a visit.
McCoy, the airport affairs manager, said crews had been working on treating Eppley’s runways since the start of the freezing drizzle earlier in the day.
Sarah Smith was traveling Friday with her husband, Andy Lee, and their three small children from Alamo, California, for a niece’s birthday party. Like many passengers, she said Friday’s ordeal was mostly calm.
“You could just tell you were sliding a little bit, and then a little bumpy near the end,” she said.
Passengers said they stayed on the plane for about an hour after it slid off the end of Runway 14R. Stairs were eventually brought to the aircraft, and passengers were taken by bus back to the terminal, where they were briefly sequestered in a conference room.
Smith said her children didn’t seem to notice that anything was amiss.
“I don’t think they even realized what happened,” she said.
Philip Baris, 57, came to town from Los Angeles for a wedding. He had a window seat and said he knew that the landing didn’t go right when he saw ice.
“We came to somewhat of an uneven stop,” he said. Baris said the plane wasn’t going very fast when the slide occurred. “Everybody was cool. Crew was cool.”
Rittershaus, of Gretna, texted his wife as soon as he realized what had happened. “We just slid off the runway. No emergency,” he informed her.
Her response: “Call me when you can.”
The passengers were offered lunch, but Rittershaus declined. He only had carry-on luggage and, after a brief discussion with airline employees and a bit of paperwork, he headed home.
He wanted to do something about that slick driveway.
World-Herald staff writer Bob Glissmann contributed to this report.
And......we’ve slid off the runway! 😳— Ali Schwanke (@alischwanke) January 18, 2019
...leave it up to @SouthwestAir to keep things lighthearted and fun while we wait for the plane get to towed. #snow #omaha thx to the pilots and staff for keeping ya safe in this ice and snow mess! pic.twitter.com/BNGPdzKqaY
Eppley Airfield is currently CLOSED after Southwest Airlines flight 1643 exited the end of Runway 14R following a landing in Omaha. All flights are currently suspended. Please check with your individual airline for flight status.— Eppley Airfield (@OMAairport) January 18, 2019
Awaiting our debriefing. Thinking my back hurts. Might have hurt my neck as well. Oh. And I lost some hair. Using this as evidence in case I suddenly forget all events of the past 90 mins. #Eppley #stillsurvivedflight1643 pic.twitter.com/n7PWxkXKmi— Michael Rittershaus (@mrittershaus) January 18, 2019
I’m at Eppley Airfield, where an inbound Southwest flight from Vegas went off a runway this afternoon. An officer here said passengers are being gathered in a conference room (just down the hall from the gray dividers). He said media won’t be allowed to interview them @OWHnews pic.twitter.com/B5SPsuVwtI— Reece Ristau (@reecereports) January 18, 2019
This is Miranda Engelkamp. Her sister Sarah Smith was on the flight with her husband and three children. Engelkamp said her sister told her that she didn’t realize the plane was sliding at first. “It was a bumpier landing than normal,” her sister told her. pic.twitter.com/T0HPI5UHjF— Reece Ristau (@reecereports) January 18, 2019
Benny Salz, 30, is a producer in LA. He’s back visiting his hometown (Omaha). He said after the plane touched down, it felt like it went in an s-shape before straightening out. “And then all of a sudden it kind of felt like it hit a black ice patch and then it went sideways.” pic.twitter.com/wfGKA6T6mt— Reece Ristau (@reecereports) January 18, 2019
Steve McCoy, manager of airport affairs for Omaha Airport Authority, just spoke to media. The plan “landed safely” at 2:02pm then slid off the end of the runway. He said crews are working to reopen the runway, which could happen “very soon.” He said he couldn’t be more specific.— Reece Ristau (@reecereports) January 18, 2019
McCoy said 150 passengers and 6 crew members were on board. The plane is still at the end of the runway (as of 4pm). Crews are assessing the safety of other runways.— Reece Ristau (@reecereports) January 18, 2019
“Airport crews have been working on the airfield since the beginning of this winter event, treating runways appropriately for aircraft operations,” McCoy said.— Reece Ristau (@reecereports) January 18, 2019
Sarah Smith was traveling w her husband Andy Lee & their 3 small children from Alamo, Calif. for a niece’s bday party. Like many passengers I’ve spoken to, she said ordeal was mostly calm. “You could just tell you were sliding a little bit and then a little bumpy near the end.” pic.twitter.com/geXB2xK7yA— Reece Ristau (@reecereports) January 18, 2019
Philip Baris, 57, was coming from LA for family friend’s wedding. He had a window seat & knew landing didn’t go right when he saw ice. “We came to somewhat of an uneven stop.” Said the plane wasn’t traveling very fast when the slid occurred. “Everybody was cool. Crew was cool.” pic.twitter.com/2uEiumzCKa— Reece Ristau (@reecereports) January 18, 2019
I’m out of here. Here’s our story: https://t.co/8ZsHYTAnSy— Reece Ristau (@reecereports) January 18, 2019