FAA Probe Underway After Boeing 777 Drops Wheel Following Takeoff

United Airlines Flight 35 was leaving San Francisco destined for Osaka, Japan, but was forced to divert to LAX.

The United 777-200 (similar to the one shown here) was destined for Osaka, Japan, but was forced to divert to Los Angeles International Airport. [Photo: AirlineGeeks/Ben Suskind]

There are fewer things more anxiety producing than accidentally leaving something behind when you fly internationally. When it is a part of the airliner, it goes to a whole new level. That's what passengers aboard a United Airlines Boeing 777-200 experienced Thursday when their flight out of San Francisco International Airport (KSFO) lost a wheel during takeoff. 

The Boeing 777-200 has six tires on each of its two main landing gear struts. The design allows the aircraft to land safely with missing or damaged tires.

United Flight 35 was destined for Osaka, Japan, but was forced to divert to Los Angeles International Airport (KLAX). When the aircraft landed, a team was waiting on the ground to meet it, and a tug was used to move it to parking.

On board the aircraft were 235 passengers, four pilots, and 10 flight attendants. No one aboard was injured, according to a United spokesperson.

"Our team quickly arranged for a new aircraft to take customers to Osaka later that evening," United told FLYING. "We’re grateful to our pilots and flight attendants for their professionalism in managing this situation."

The incident occurred around 11:35 a.m. PST as the aircraft departed, CNN reported. KSFO airport spokesperson Doug Yakel told the network that the jet "lost a portion of a landing gear tire during takeoff."

A ground-level video captured the wheel falling from the jet before it landed in an employee parking lot, damaging several cars. Photographs posted by local media show a silver car with the back end crushed and the windows shattered. The car was empty at the time of the event, and there were no injuries reported.

"We will work with customers as well as with the owners of the damaged vehicles in [KSFO] to ensure their needs are addressed," United said.

The FAA said it is investigating the cause of the incident.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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