Is it dangerous for commercial aircraft to lose tires?

Recent incidents with United’s Boeing 757 and LATAM’s Airbus A319 have had repercussions in the media and social networks, but is there really a risk to passengers?

Atlanta, United States, January 20Delta Air Lines Flight 982 was preparing to take off from Hartsfield-Jackson Airport bound for Bogotá, Colombia, when a pilot from another aircraft came on the radio to warn the crew that one of the tires on the Boeing 757 had just escaped.

One of your nose tires just came off, it just rolled off the runway behind you,” said the pilot who was nearby at the airport threshold.

The pilots of the narrow body jet then returned to the terminal and the 184 passengers later boarded another similar aircraft.

The Boeing 757-200 registration number N672DL is about to reach 32 years in service with Delta and, despite its age, it returned to flying with the US airline the following day, bound for San Juan.

LATAM Airbus A319 landed with a tire bursted on February 6 in Brazil (Golf Oscar Romeo)

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São Paulo, Brazil, February 6 – A LATAM Airbus A319 takes off from Santos Dumont Airport, in Rio de Janeiro, and one of the tires on the main landing gear comes loose.

The aircraft on flight LA 3923 was destined for Congonhas Airport, within the city of São Paulo, but which has a runway of less than 2,000 meters.

The crew then preferred to land at Guarulhos International Airport, whose main runway is 3,700 meters long.

After making some low-flying passes so that the control tower could observe the condition of the landing gear, the A319 landed safely, followed by emergency vehicles. The operation was followed live on a YouTube channel (see below).

The 13-year-old Airbus jet, registered PT-TMO, was scheduled to fly again on February 9.

Jet2 A330 with two tires bursted in a landing in 2017 (Social media)

Security risk or situation under control?

The two episodes were widely publicized in the media and on social networks and, as is common, they received varied reactions, from people afraid of flying to those who related the fact to the problem of the Boeing 737 MAX 9, which loses a door plug in flight.

However, situations like that of Delta’s Boeing 757 and LATAM’s Airbus A319 would be more common than one might think and fully foreseen in pilot training.

A USA Today article published in 2017 is a good source on the subject. In it, readers of the US newspaper asked John Cox, an experienced pilot who flew for the former US Airways (taken over by American Airlines).

Cox, who today runs Safety Operations Systems, an aviation safety consultancy, explained what the procedures are in situations like those that occurred recently.

C-5 Galaxy front landing gear (Ian Abbott)

See some facts mentioned by the pilot:

– An airplane’s tires are designed to support the load if the other tire is damaged.

– If the plane is at low speed during takeoff, it will be aborted. If the speed is high, they will take off but return to the same airport afterwards.

– If the tire fails when touching the runway, the landing will be carried out normally.

– Pilots return to the departure airport after a tire burst because the landing gear should not be retracted, due to the risk of damage to another part of the aircraft.

– Some planes have sensors that can detect tire damage, but it is more common for a situation like this to be reported by the tower or other aircraft that locate the debris.

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Aviation tires are extremely resistant products that are filled with nitrogen. They can be used in hundreds of landings before being replaced and retreaded.

As you can see, despite the inconvenience of delaying a trip, the risk of a damaged tire for passengers is quite low.


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