Tire falls off United flight after takeoff from San Francisco; diverted plane lands safely at LAX

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Friday, March 8, 2024
Diverted United flight lands safely at LAX after tire falls off plane
A tire fell off a United Airlines flight taking off from San Francisco International Airport, bound for Japan. The diverted plane landed safely at LAX.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A tire fell off a United Airlines flight after it took off from San Francisco International Airport on Thursday, initially bound for Japan. The diverted plane later landed safely at LAX.

"At approximately 11:35 a.m., United Flight 35 departing to Osaka lost a portion of landing gear tire during takeoff," a United representative said.

The tire debris landed in one of SFO's employee parking lots. There were no injuries reported, but our sister station in San Francisco was over the scene, where police placed caution tape around cars that appeared to be hit by the tire.

Before the jetliner landed without incident, United Airlines released a statement saying: "Once the flight lands in Los Angeles we will arrange a new aircraft to continue this trip for our customers."

A tire that fell from a United Airlines flight is pictured.
A tire that fell from a United Airlines flight is pictured.

United said the flight had 235 passengers, 10 flight attendants and four pilots -- for a total 249 people onboard. Video from AIR7 HD showed the plane touching down on a runway at LAX as fire engines and other emergency vehicles were standing by. It was then towed away. No one onboard the plane was hurt.

The 777-200 has six tires on each of its two main landing gear struts, the airline said, adding that the aircraft "is designed to land safely with missing or damaged tires."

Video of Flight 35 departing shows the plane losing one of the six tires on its left-side main landing gear assembly seconds after takeoff.

Officials say the runway was briefly closed to clear debris, but was soon reopened, with no further impact to airport operations anticipated.

Aviation experts said planes losing tires is a rare occurrence and not indicative of a larger safety issue.

"In aviation, we never want to have single points of failure if they can be avoided, and this is a case in point," said Alan Price, a former chief pilot for Delta Air Lines.

"The remaining tires are fully capable of handling the load," he added.

Price said a loose tire it's normally a maintenance issue and not a problem created by the manufacturer.

John Cox, a retired pilot and professor of aviation safety at the University of Southern California, agreed. "I don't see any impact for Boeing as it was a United maintenance team that changed the tire," he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a statement saying it will investigate this incident.

Read United's full statement below:

United flight 35 lost one tire after takeoff from San Francisco and landed at LAX. Our team quickly arranged for a new aircraft to take customers to Osaka this evening.

We're grateful to our pilots and flight attendants for their professionalism in managing this situation. We're also grateful to our teams on the ground who were waiting with a tug to move the aircraft soon after it landed and to our teams in the airport who assisted customers upon their arrival. We will work with customers as well as with the owners of the damaged vehicles in SFO to ensure their needs are addressed.

The Associated Press and KGO-TV contributed to this report.