Storms Divert Tulsa-Bound United Flight to Northwest Arkansas

Oct 21, 2019

Passengers board a United Airlines jet bound for Tulsa at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport on Monday. The flight ran into storms on its Sunday night trip from Chicago and had to be diverted to Arkansas.
Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

Sunday night storms made for an extended trip for 47 passengers on a United airlines flight to Tulsa from Chicago.

Pilots couldn’t fly through the storm, and they didn’t have enough fuel to fly around it, forcing the plane to be diverted to Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.

The flight was due in Tulsa at 9:48 p.m. Sunday but landed in Arkansas at 10:17 p.m.

The diversion added to an already three-day journey home from Ethiopia for a group of missionaries led by Tulsa pastor Brad Carr. Carr said they were supposed to be on an earlier flight home from O'Hare.

"We got to Chicago, and it took us three hours to get through customs and security because you have to leave the airport and go to a different terminal," Carr said. "And so, we literally ran, and I got to the gate in Chicago to make our 5 o’clock — supposed to be home at 5 — flight three minutes late. They’d closed the doors."

Broken Arrow resident Malcolm Mebane said he considered renting a car to drive the rest of the way like many fellow passngers did, but the same storm system soon blew through Siloam Springs, Rogers and other towns in the area.

"At first, I was, like, 'OK. How bad is it?' And then after I talked to my wife and then the storm actually rolled into here, I was, like, 'OK. Hey, I’m glad they did what they did when they did,'" Mebane said.

Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport lost power in the overnight storms, leading to several flight cancellations and ticket counters issuing hand-written boarding passes, which slowed down the security screening process.

The power outage meant the United plane was delayed leaving Northwest Arkansas almost another two hours Monday morning. It arrived in Tulsa around 11:30 a.m., with only 15 passengers.