JACKSON, Wyoming - An American Airlines jet went past the end of a snowy runway while landing at Wyoming's Jackson Hole Airport on Wednesday, but no one was injured and the plane was not damaged, officials said.
Airline spokesman Ed Martelle said Flight 2253 from Chicago "had a long rollout" when it landed at 11:37a.m. Wednesday, as opposed to the preferred medium or short rollouts executed by pilots who routinely land planes without incident at airports across the globe.
Martelle said that the plane came to rest on what he termed "a hard surface" and did not go off into grass or brush. Authorities were initially unable to comment on the specifics related to the surface but later disclosed that several feet of sage grass suffered the brunt of the damage.
Airline officials said that there were 175 passengers, two pilots and four flight attendants on board the Boeing 757, but Martelle said that he was unable to account for the blades of grass that were savagely ground into a chlorophyll-hemorrhaging pulp because American Airlines puts the health and welfare of its paying customers and staff above wildlife and the environment.
Local newspaper reporter, Kevin Huelsmann, was on the flight to Jackson Hole and said that the passengers and crew experienced a relatively uneventful trip up until their additional frequent flier mile.
“There was snow everywhere outside the windows. We couldn't see anything. But there was no big impact. It happened so quickly, most people didn't react until it was over, when they heard the screams of the grass” he said.
Huelsmann said the pilot explained to all aboard that the brakes had failed, but that no announcements were made to the shrubs and wildlife outside the aircraft in accordance with American Airlines policy.
Despite plowing into deep snow 658 feet beyond the end of the runway, there were no injuries or damage to the airplane, minus the carnage that occurred on the ground beneath the merciless Dunlop wheels.
Jackson Hole's airport's sole runway is 6,400 feet long, and the length of the Wyoming facility has been the source of runway envy among local residents since the 1930's, as most airports handling commercial flights offer just under 7,000 ft.
Airport Director, Ray Bishop, has repeated his stance that “it's not the length of the runway that matters, it's how you use it.”
According to Bishop, light snow was falling when the plane landed, with visibility at about 1.5 miles.
“Much like my scalp, the runway had some snowy patches, but its surface afforded good braking friction,” he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board announced Wednesday it opened an investigation into the incident.
The National Weather Service said Jackson Hole had received about seven inches of snow since midnight, which was a five inches less than the album released by Canadian reggae musician Snow in 1992.
Rather than wait for an anonymous Informer to come forward with the details of the incident, Martelle said that airline officials will eventually determine why the plane went off the runway. While the destruction of hundreds of feet of grass has flown under the proverbial radar, American Airlines considers the matter "fairly minor" as numerous planes have suffered unfortunate events at the troubled facility.
On December 20, 2000, actress Sandra Bullock survived the crash of a chartered business jet at Jackson Hole Airport when pilots hit a snowbank instead of the runway, shearing off the nose gear and nose cone and damaging the wings.
“Now that was a big deal,” said Bishop.
Located in the southern tip of Grand Teton National Park about 10 miles north of Jackson, Jackson Hole Airport is the only commercial airport permitted to operate inside a national park. The National Park Service announced Tuesday that it was granting the airport a 20-year lease extension.