Things That Go Bump On The Runway

I have been very lucky so far with the things that have gone wrong in my flying career.  Most of the things that have gone wrong for me have (knock wood) been small.  I had another small one go wrong this weekend.  I blew a tire rolling out on a landing at Santa Monica.

I was out with Marc Zorn flying approaches for instrument currency.  We were actually delayed departing Santa Monica because the nose wheel tire was low.  American Flyers helped us out and filled that tire.  I always check the tires during my walk around, but because the nose had been low and because I’d recently had the left main tire filled, I double checked the mains when the lineman came over.  No sense asking him to come back.  I was surer than usual that everything was properly inflated.

Marc and I shot approaches into Riverside and Chino that went pretty well.  We scoped out the various interesting planes on the ground at Chino and had lunch at Flo’s Diner.

From there we filed back to Santa Monica and took off.  In retrospect, the roll out was my first clue something was up.  Just as we were lifting off, I felt a sharp jerk to the left that  didn’t feel like a wind gust.  I even joked to Marc that I hoped we still had three wheels down there, but I wasn’t positive it was anything  more than a crosswind gust on takeoff.  If I hadn’t had the confirmation of tire failure on landing, I might have forgotten the incident.  Now I know what a tire blowing feels like.  I think.

Anyway, we landed pretty uneventfully at SMO, until we had cleared the runway (and, I later found out, cleared the runway safety area).  As the plane slowed, it began pulling to the left and felt like a blown tire on a car.  I got as far clear of the runway as possible and told the tower I thought I’d blown a tire.  Sure enough, I had.

The blown left main

The airport police towed us off the apron after removing the fairing that protects the wheel, and made an incident report.  The responding officer also gave us a lift back to our car.  The officer – whose name I unfortunately forgot – was really excellent.  He helped us get the plane safely out of harms way before collecting the information he needed for his report.  He was polite and helpful in every way.

I contacted my mechanics the next day and they towed the plane back to my parking spot and put a new tire on.

I’ve been thinking about whether I should have declared emergency or handled it differently.  I think I did OK knowing what I knew then.  The takeoff at Chino was abnormal, but it was abnormal in a new way and only slightly so.  With only that evidence, I don’t think that I had enough indication of trouble to declare emergency.  I thought my joke to Marc was a joke. And honestly, I don’t know that the tire blew on takeoff.   It may have been fine at Chino.  Beyond getting as far clear of the Santa Monica runway as possible once I had the problem, there wasn’t much else to do.

But, I will take a similar abnormal takeoff more seriously in the future.

Hopefully I won’t have to deal with tire trouble again for another 1600 hours.

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