United Airlines Flight 1948 blew a tire causing its landing gear to catch fire at the Tampa International Airport on Monday, May 30. Passengers were evacuated and no injuries were reported, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Passengers deplaning from United Flight at Tampa Int'l after rescue teams extinguished fire caused by blown tire pic.twitter.com/m1F4QLokf4
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The flight was scheduled to leave at 3:11 p.m. and to continue on after Houston to Phoenix.
Despite this frightening accident, an ABC review of Federal Aviation Authority reports found that “only in a few cases did tire failure lead to major incidents.”
However, if the pilot cannot safely abort the flight during take-off due to having reached too high of a velocity, the pilot then has to make a landing with defective tires.
The passengers on United Flight 1948 were lucky that the pilot was able to abort take-off.
In 2012, the passengers of another United Flight were not so lucky. Not only did a tire blowout result in debris that took out one of the engines, but the tire blowout happened too late for the pilot to abort take-off.
This jet was taking flight from Newark and had to return with defective landing gear and one engine.
“Eyewitnesses reported seeing flames spewing from [the] engine right after the plane took off.”
Tire blowouts happen to airplanes operated by several airline companies. Also in 2012, passengers of Delta Flight 3285 experienced their plane blow a tire shortly after take-off, giving the pilot no chance to abort the flight, as reported by NBC.
The pilot flew the plane to burn off its fuel, in preparation for a possible fire on the inevitable landing with defective tires. But the plane landed safely at New York’s JFK airport, with no harm to its 73 passengers and crew members.
United had a serious issue with landing gear six years ago when the nose landing gear of a United Express plane apparently collapsed. This nonstop flight from Washington’s Dulles airport to Ottawa’s Macdonald-Cartier airport landed and “was unable to stop on the runway, coming to rest about 150 meters off the end of the runway. It was raining at the time of the accident.”
One passenger and both pilots were injured.
About a third of all airplane accidents occur on take-off, which includes the three phases of taxiing to the runway, take-off and the initial climb, and the climb to cruising altitude. Only 10 percent of airplane accidents occur while cruising. The majority of accidents — 58 percent — occur when descending and landing.
All statistics considered, flying remains one of the safest ways to travel, as reported by USA Today.
The National Safety Council sets the odds-of-dying by flying significantly lower than by driving.
“…[T]he odds of dying in a motor vehicle accident [are] 1 in 98 for a lifetime. For air and space transport (including air taxis and private flights), the odds [are] 1 in 7,178 for a lifetime.”
USA Today’s report offers this explanation as to why it seems that driving is less dangerous than flying.
“Driving affords more personal control, making it feel safer. In addition, plane crashes are catastrophic, killing more people at once, which grabs more attention and makes people more sensitive to them. Car crashes happen every day and spread the loss over time, making their combined effects less noticeable.”
Air flight is certainly a common form of travel. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, a total of 631,939,829 passengers boarded domestic flights in the United States in the year 2010. This averages to 1.73 million passengers flying per day.
January 1, 2014 marked 100 years of commercial flight. On January 1, 1914, “a team of four visionaries combined efforts in the first scheduled commercial airline flight,” according to the International Air Transport Association.
Airplane tire blowouts may be scary, but they seem neither to threaten safety to passengers in a significant way nor to deter those passengers from air travel.
[Photo by Justine Sullivan/Getty Images]