United Air Boeing 777 loses a wheel at takeoff, smashes car

Planes get plenty of redundant systems because flying, at the best of times, is a real workout on an aircraft. For instance, the Boeing 777 bolts six tires apiece on each of its two rear landing gear struts. According to Bridgestone, which held the contract to supply the rubber, each 36-ply tire on the rear gear is 52 inches across by 21 inches wide, weighs 266 pounds, is inflated to between 200 and 220 psi, can be run up to 235 miles per hour and can support a load of 66,500 pounds. Since a loaded Boeing 777 can have a maximum landing weight of just over 200,000 pounds, those rear landing gear could lose a few tires and still handle the job. That’s a good thing for the plane and passengers. Still, losing a tire isn’t supposed to happen, and will have consequences for whatever’s below. That’s what happened when a United Airlines 777-200 leaving San Francisco for Osaka, Japan, lost one of those tires just after takeoff, about 200 or 300 feet in the air. Passengers said the pilots informed them something was “interfering” with the plane. Air Traffic Control alerted the pilots the tire fell off. An American Airlines pilot asked, “Do you guys know where that tire went?”

The hoop landed on a car in an airport employee parking lot — destroying on one car and damaging several others. Someone’s going to be getting a check from their insurance company for a totaled ride.

Then the tire burst through the lot fence into the neighboring Hertz rental car company parking lot. San Francisco airport shut down its runway briefly to clear any debris, The United flight, having avoided an emergency, turned south and landed safely at LAX two hours later. No one was hurt on the ground, and none of the four pilots, ten cabin crew, or 249 passengers suffered anything worse than a story to tell family and friends.

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