Tire blows out on passenger jet taking off from Philadelphia airport

Fri Mar 14, 2014 5:33am EDT

1 of 2. A U.S. Airways plane with a collapsed nose is seen at Philadelphia International Airport March 13, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Tom Mihalek

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(Reuters) - A tire blew out on a U.S. Airways plane with 154 passengers and crew on board as it was speeding down the runway at Philadelphia International Airport on Thursday, prompting the pilot to abort the takeoff, officials said.

There were no reports of serious injuries in the early evening incident on Flight 1702 bound for Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said two passengers were hospitalized, one with a minor injury and one with a minor illness.

Initial indications are that the plane, an Airbus A320, was just beginning to lift off when the tire blew, and soon afterward the nose gear collapsed, according to airport spokeswoman Victoria Lupica.

The pilot then elected to abort takeoff, said U.S. Airways spokesman William McGlashen.

The pilot appears to have done a good job handling the situation, Joe Taney, vice president of operations for American/U.S. Airways, told reporters.

"We assume he did, based on the fact that everyone is safe and everyone got down safe and evacuated safely and everyone was well taken care of, so I assume our captain did a great job on the aircraft and he should be commended."

The jet's five crew members evacuated the 149 passengers by having them slide down emergency chutes after the incident which took place at about 6:05 p.m. EDT (2205 GMT), said McGlashen.

Firefighters sprayed foam around the plane as a precaution to prevent any flare-up, and although smoke wafted from one engine, there was no fuel leak and no open flames were seen, Philadelphia Fire Department Deputy Chief Gary Loesch said.

The mishap halted take-offs and landings on all four runways at the Philadelphia airport for a time, officials said.

Three of four runways later resumed normal operations, and the tilted U.S. Airways plane was set to be towed away at about 1 a.m. local time on Friday, allowing the fourth runway to return to normal operations early in the morning, she said.

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the incident, McGlashen said.

The passengers were bused back to an airport terminal and arrangements were made to fly them to Fort Lauderdale on another aircraft, officials said.

"Morning operations are not impacted and we do not plan on them being impacted," the airport said in a Twitter message in response to a passenger's questions about flight delays.

Hannah Udren, 18, told the Philadelphia Inquirer she was taking the plane to visit family in Florida. "We were just entering the air and the front of the plane went down and hit the runway, and then popped back up and hit it again."

U.S. Airways is owned by American Airlines Group Inc.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Comments (3)
mb56 wrote:
“We assume he did based on the fact that everyone is safe and everyone got down safe and evacuated safely [...] our captain did a great job on the aircraft and he should be commended,”
Really fuzzy thinking… just because you get away with something and perhaps beat the odds, doesn’t equate to the best action. In a case like this I would think the correct action would be the one that would represent the least risk – and that begs the question as to whether is is better to risk a crash on take-off with a full load of fuel or land later on a blown tire and more warning for emergency response crews, etc. Lots of aircraft have landed on blown tires. Would be real interesting to know the risk profile for both scenarios…

Mar 14, 2014 2:00am EDT  --  Report as abuse
LenBonosevich wrote:
Just because the aircraft was beginning to lift the nose, that does not mean that it had enough speed to rotate or to safely climb out. The nose wheel can lift at Vmu prior to reaching V1 (abort/commit speed) and Vr (rotation speed), the speed at which the aircraft can attain V2 and climb safely with an engine out. A tire blowout would undoubtedly cause a situation where a VERY quick decision (like in one second or less) had to be made in a crisis mode with very limited information – bang, something happened, fly or abort. Pilots aren’t perfect, but these guys (and gals) train for stuff like this. If he knew he could abort, and the outcome seems to support this, it was probably a reasonable decision rather than risking trying to achieve flight while not fully knowing the condition of the aircraft at that moment.

Mar 14, 2014 6:06am EDT  --  Report as abuse
There are too many strange accounts, thus far. Why do some media accounts mention a “crash?” There’s a huge difference between an “aborted takeoff” and a “crash.”

Some of the passenger/witness accounts – for whatever they might be worth – suggest that the aircraft stalled during the takeoff “lift-off.”

Blowing a nosewheel tire is a rare event, especially that late during a takeoff roll. The standard maintenance & pilot inspections of the aircraft should have revealed any tire flaws. In theory, the aircraft “lift” at that point during the takeoff would relieve pressure from the nosewheel; lessening the chances of its failure. Add the chances of a second tire failing; with the nose-gear collapsing.

Just given where the aircraft came to a stop, the suggestion is that the pilots have some really serious explaining to do.

The first question should address the pertinent wind conditions during the takeoff roll. The media images of the “flying” aft escape slide suggest a high cross-wind. Was the “cross-wind component” in excess of the aircraft limitations? Were the pilots intimidated into taking a dangerous risk? Or, did they just “goof?”

In any case, given the big-money environment, this event will probably “… go political.” It’s a story worth following.

Mar 14, 2014 11:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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