The two tires that blew out as an airliner departed Tuesday from Bush Intercontinental Airport - one new and the other newly retreaded - were installed two weeks ago and had undergone fewer than 50 takeoffs and landings since, a spokesman for the manufacturer said.
And as federal, local and business officials review the Tuesday incident, where a Continental Express Flight circled the airport for a tension-filled two hours before safely landing, safety crews were again deployed at Bush on Wednesday.
This time, the pilots of a Continental Airlines flight from Bogota, Colombia, had noticed a strange noise when they took off at 8 a.m. Wednesday and suspected that the Boeing 737 had a damaged landing gear. That plane landed safely shortly after 1 p.m.
"The trucks met the plane on landing and they did inspect it on the runway, but there were no issues and it continued to the gate," said Continental spokeswoman Julie King.
Renewed Only Once
The tires on the Continental Express Flight 3161 are made by Goodyear. Ed Markey of Goodyear in Akron, Ohio, said retreading of aircraft tires is common. Tires for aircraft such as the Embraer 145XR, the type of plane that was carrying the 45 passengers and three crew members, typically remain in service for 300 takeoffs and landings, and these tires are retreaded only once, he said.
Markey said aircraft tires are under more stress during takeoff than landing, because on takeoff they are usually hotter, traveling faster and carrying more weight.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig said an FAA team that monitors Continental operations is interviewing the flight crew and maintenance personnel, and examining the aircraft and tire debris found on the runway after the Tuesday incident.
Others from Continental, ExpressJet, which operates Continental Express, Embraer and Goodyear are also participating, officials of the companies said.
None would comment on the findings, but Houston Airport System spokesman Richard Fernandez said no debris other than tire shards was found on the runway.
Blowout is `Very Rare'
ExpressJet spokeswoman Kristy Nicholas said Goodrich supplied the wheel bearings and rims and will also assist in the investigation.
Nicholas said it is "very rare" that a tire blows out on an ExpressJet plane, however, she did not have statistics.
Fernandez said runways at Bush are inspected visually three times a day and "whenever a storm passes or somebody reports seeing something."
They are also swept "as required" but not daily, he said.
Both Tuesday's and Wednesday's incidents prompted an "alert 2," which notifies airport personnel to "stand by and be ready." Such alerts occur about five times a week on average in Houston, Fernandez said.
Fernandez said that figure is for all three of the city's airports - Bush, Hobby and Ellington Field - and all types of aviation, including airlines, cargo carriers, private and military planes.
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Houston firefighters at the scene called it "a photo landing." Relieved emergency personnel could be heard applauding over radio scanners.
By comparison Southwest Airlines, currently the largest airline at the Ontario Airport with 56 daily flights, serves six cities nonstop.
Nicholas said she could not comment on what cities ExpressJet will offer nonstop service to, but she said the airline will start selling tickets Thursday.