Tire falls off United flight after takeoff, crushing several vehicles in parking lot, company says

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Friday, March 8, 2024
United plane loses tire after takeoff, lands safely at LAX
A United Airlines plane for Osaka, Japan lost a tire as it took off from San Francisco International Airport. It made a safe 7emergency landing at LAX

SAN FRANCISCO -- A tire fell off a United Airlines flight departing from San Francisco International Airport to Osaka, Japan Thursday morning, officials confirmed.

"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.

WATCH: United plane loses tire while taking off in San Francisco

A United Airline plane bound for Japan lost a tire while it was taking off from San Francisco International Airport Thursday.

The tire debris landed in one of the airport's employee parking lots. There were no injuries reported, but SKY7 was over the scene, where police placed caution tape around cars that appeared to be hit by the tire.

In a statement, United Airlines said the flight was diverted to LAX where it landed safely. The company says crews are now working to arrange a new aircraft to take passengers to Osaka on Thursday evening.

United said the flight had 235 customers, 10 flight attendants and four pilots -- for a total 249 people on board.

SKY7 was over a parking lot near SFO, where several cars were damaged by a falling tire from a United flight on Thursday, March 7, 2024.
SKY7 was over a parking lot near SFO, where several cars were damaged by a falling tire from a United flight on Thursday, March 7, 2024.

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

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

An eyewitness is describing what he saw after the tire fell and damaged several cars.

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

He described to us what it looked like watching that tire. The plane it fell from had just taken off at SFO, seen on video that was recorded by Cali Planes on YouTube. Glass was driving near the rental car facility and just 50 feet away as he watched the tire hit nearby vehicles.

"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 tires still spinning and then landed on a red Tesla and completely totaled and crushed the red Tesla," said Glass.

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Multiple cars were damaged but no one hurt.

"I've never seen anything like that, I was in shock for about 15 or 20 minutes," he added.

The plane, that was initially headed to Japan, rerouted to LAX where it landed safely. Those in the Bay are just a bit taken back after what happened.

"I knew it was a plane tire right away because they are huge, right? They are like the size of the entire wheel well of a car. When it hit that Tesla, I just remember the glass, the metal crunch and the shatter of the glass - was just really a lot," said Glass.

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.

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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 contributed to this article.