By Laura Zuckerman
March 4 (Reuters) - A SkyWest plane en route to Salt Lake City slid off the runway just before takeoff at Missoula International Airport in Montana on Tuesday in icy conditions, but no one on board was injured, an official with the regional airline said.
The flight, a Delta-partnered carrier with 44 passengers and three crew, was delayed for several hours while aircraft maintenance workers inspected it for damage and found none, said SkyWest spokesman Wes Horrocks.
He said the nose gear of the plane, a small jet manufactured by Bombardier Inc of Canada, left the side of the runway about 8 a.m. local time while taxiing, but it wasn't immediately clear what caused the incident.
"We don't know for sure what happened, but it is winter and there was snow removal going on. It's very likely winter conditions contributed to it," Horrocks said.
The airport, which feeds regional traffic from smaller cities like Helena, Montana, to major hubs like Denver, was closed from 8 to 10 a.m. while the SkyWest airplane was moved off the runway, said the facility's deputy director, Brian Ellestad.
Ellestad said the airport, which is served by four major air carriers, had a mix of snow and rain on Tuesday but that pavement was sanded and there were good braking conditions when the mishap occurred.
SkyWest, based in St. George, Utah, partners with larger carriers like United and Delta to provide regional jet service. The jet that slid off the runway was ferrying Delta passengers, Horrocks said.
A Delta spokeswoman referred all questions to SkyWest. SkyWest has 337 aircraft with more than 1,700 daily flights to 180 U.S. destinations, Ellestad said.