Tire falls off Boeing plane mid-air, smashing into parked cars below

Click to play video: 'United Airlines Boeing 777 plane loses tire during takeoff in San Francisco'
United Airlines Boeing 777 plane loses tire during takeoff in San Francisco
United Airlines Boeing 777 plane loses tire during takeoff in San Francisco – Mar 8, 2024

A tire fell off a Boeing jetliner shortly after takeoff at San Francisco International Airport and smashed into cars and broke through a fence in a parking lot below. Thankfully, no one was injured.

Video of the incident showed the tire, one of six on the left landing gear, detaching and falling to the ground seconds after the plane took off in San Francisco.

United Airlines Flight 35 was bound for Osaka, Japan, but made an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) at 1:30 p.m on Thursday. The plane managed to touch down safely despite being down a tire.

The Boeing 777 aircraft, built in 2002, is designed to land safely with a missing or damaged tire, United said in a statement.

The plane landed about two-thirds of the way down the runway at LAX and stopped there before being towed away. Fire engines were on scene but ultimately weren’t needed. There were 235 passengers and 14 crew members on board the flight.

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The plane initially took off at 10:53 a.m., meaning it was in the air for about two hours and 45 minutes without all of its tires, according to FlightAware data.

The tire landed in an employee parking lot at San Francisco International Airport after detaching mid-air

Helicopter footage taken by local news broadcasters showed the tire at rest in the middle of the parking lot circled off with police tape. An unconfirmed video gaining traction online appears to show a parked silver car that was totalled when the tire fell from the sky. Behind it, a chain link fence attached to a concrete divider appears mangled.

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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.”

Price said a loose tire is 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 will investigate, spokesperson Tony Molinaro said.

A eyewitness who spoke to ABC7 described seeing the tire fall from the sky and hit several cars. Gary Glass said he was driving near a rental car facility at San Francisco International Airport when he saw the tire fall about 50 feet away from him.

“At the speed and velocity that it was coming down, it would have crushed somebody like a grape,” Glass said.

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“I look up and it’s a tire spinning at a rapid speed. It bounced in the staff parking lot and it bounced onto a car, a small compact car and I thought that it was going to crush that car and stay there but it actually bounced again really high, and tire’s still spinning and then landed on a red Tesla and completely totalled and crushed the red Tesla.”

United Airlines told NBC News it will work with the owners of the damaged vehicles “to ensure their needs are addressed.”

“I’ve never seen anything like that, I was in shock for about 15 or 20 minutes,” Glass said. “When it hit that Tesla, I just remember the glass, the metal crunch and the shatter of the glass — was just really a lot.”

Another incident involving a Boeing plane operated by United Airlines came Friday morning in Houston, where a Boeing 737 MAX 8 careened off the runway and rolled onto the grass. No one was injured and all 160 passengers on board deplaned on the taxiway and were bused back to George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Video shared by a KPRC reporter showed the plane tilted to the side as emergency crews responded.

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— with files from The Associated Press

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