LEZLIE STERLING / lsterling@sacbee.com

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 sits in the service area at Sacramento International Airport on Wednesday. The Seattle-bound jet aborted takeoff Tuesday night when two of its tires failed.

Feds probe Southwest's double-tire blowout in Sacramento

Published: Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011 - 8:00 am

Federal officials spent Wednesday investigating an unusual double-tire blowout on a Southwest Airlines jet at Sacramento International Airport, but said they hadn't come to any firm conclusions about the incident.

"We examined the plane and talked to Southwest but haven't determined a cause of the blown tires. (We're) still looking into it," Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.

Flight 2287 to Seattle, with 130 passengers, aborted its take-off about 6:15 p.m. Tuesday after two tires blew on the runway. No injuries were reported.

A Southwest Airlines spokesman said the company's mechanics were examining the Boeing 737, but no preliminary findings had yet been issued.

"The plane will not be back in service until they are assured they know what happened," Southwest's Brad Hawkins said.

Gregor said tire failures are rare, but not unheard of.

"They can result from mechanical problems in the wheels, structural failure of the tires themselves or debris on the runway," he said. "Tires can also blow if a pilot applies the brakes hard. We'll work with the airline to determine what happened and to ensure the problem is corrected before the plane is returned to service."

Airport officials said crews inspected the runway after the incident but found no indication that the runway had caused the failure.

It was the second aircraft tire blowout at Sacramento in a little more than a year. In August 2010, four tires popped and the brakes caught fire on a JetBlue flight arriving from Long Beach. Passengers were evacuated via emergency slides. Some suffered minor injuries.

A federal review of the 2010 incident indicated the parking brake was on, locking the tires.

"According to airplane recorded flight data, the parking brake had become engaged during the landing approach … and it remained engaged throughout the landing," a National Transportation Safety Board report states. "Neither pilot recalled any abnormal indications or warnings associated with the braking system prior to landing."

A second Southwest flight ran into trouble Wednesday morning when it collided with a bird after take-off. The Ontario-bound plane returned to the airport as a precaution. The plane suffered minor damage, airport spokeswoman Laurie Slothower said.

Bird strikes are not unusual at Sacramento International. A review of federal records shows 650 bird strikes at the airport in the last four years, many during migration periods in December and January. Most flights continued as normal, but in several dozen cases, jets aborted takeoffs or returned for damage assessments.

Last January, a cargo jet suffered $3million in engine and other damage in a collision with a goose, forcing an emergency landing in Oakland.

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