The takeoff of an Aeromexico jet was stopped abruptly in Los Angeles early Saturday after two tires blew out, briefly closing the LAX airport runway. The pilot successfully stopped the Boeing 737, which was quickly surrounded by police and firefighters, but no injuries were reported. Officials initially stated that the landing gear had collapsed.
No injuries were reported among the 129 passengers and six crew members who were on board Aeromexico Flight 18, traveling from Los Angeles to Mexico City. Passengers reported smelling something burning and firefighters were hosing down the plane. One traveler said that no one talked to the passengers for about five minutes after the aircraft came to a stop, but no one panicked.
The incident occurred at about 6:30 a.m. The jet was towed from the Los Angeles runway more than four hours later, having sustained some minor damage in the form of dents on the wings. Passengers were evacuated about a half-hour after the aborted takeoff. They were told to take their belongings and exit the plane. They were bused to a gate and rebooked on other flights for later in the day.
In July 2010 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded the safety rating of Mexico airlines, which had the effect of restricting them from expanding service between the two countries or partnering with American carriers. That decision was prompted by concern about Mexican government’s lax oversight of their airlines. The airline’s Category 1 rating was reinstated in late December that year, and codesharing with Delta resumed, reconnecting customers flying between nine U.S. and 20 Mexican airports.
The 2010 downgrade was due to Mexico not following international safety standards that were set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), who had investigated Mexico’s civil aviation authority. The FAA assesses the civil aviation authorities of all airlines who fly to the U.S. in meeting ICAO standards as part of the International Safety Assessment program. Countries whose air carriers fly to the U.S. must follow the safety standards of ICAO.
Earlier this year the FAA downgraded India airlines to Category 2 after concerns about safety oversights that dated back to 2009 and before. The move was considered a major embarrassment to what is considered one of the worldwide leaders in the emerging aviation market.
Aeromexico has been in business since 1934. Since 1970 they have been involved in four crashes involving at least one passenger death, and a fifth in which no passengers died but four people on the ground were killed. None of the incidents occurred during takeoff. The most recent accident, in which no passengers were killed, was in October 2000, when an Aeromexico DC9 overshot the runway onlanding and crashed into nearby homes. The airline’s worst crash was in 1986, when an Aeromexico DC9 collided with a single engine Piper Archer that had strayed into controlled airspace above Cerritos, Cal., a suburb of Los Angeles. All 58 passengers and six crew members were killed.
It is not known at this time what caused the Aeromexico jet’s tires to blow out, and the National Transportation Safety Board plans no further investigation of the Los Angeles incident. Once the plane came to a stop on the LAX runway the only thing left on the wheels was the steel rims. Aeromexico officials have had no comment.
By Beth A. Balen