Second United flight within four months loses wheel immediately after takeoff  

Robin Guess / Shutterstock

For the second time in four months, a United Airlines aircraft departing from a Californian airport has had a landing gear wheel detach immediately after takeoff.  

This latest incident has revived concerns held by regulators following a string of incidents throughout 2024 involving aircraft operated by the Chicago-based carrier.  

The aircraft involved in the latest occurrence of a landing gear wheel separating from the plane upon departure was a Boeing 757 that had just departed Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) heading to Denver International Airport (DEN) as flight UA1001 on July 8, 2024.  

The flight had just departed LAX at 07:16 local time for the two-hour flight to Denver when the incident occurred. Despite the crew of flight UA1001 being advised by air traffic controllers that their aircraft had shed a wheel upon takeoff, they elected to continue to Denver where the aircraft landed safely without further incident. The flight was carrying 174 passengers and seven crew members.  

“The wheel has been recovered in Los Angeles, and we are investigating what caused this event,” a statement issued by the airline said. 

The aircraft involved was a Boeing 757-200 registered as N14017. According to ch-aviation, this aircraft is 29.8 years old, having first been delivered to United in October 1994. The aircraft is configured to carry 176 passengers in a two-class configuration and is powered by two Rolls-Royce RB211-535 turbofans. 

Incredibly, this latest incident is almost a carbon copy of a similar event that the airline suffered in March 2024. In that earlier occurrence, one of the carrier’s Boeing 777-200s shed a main landing gear wheel as it departed from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) on March 7, 2024, heading for Kansai International Airport (KIX) in Osaka, Japan. 

Shortly after the flight took off, one of the aircraft’s main landing gear wheels detached from the aircraft, damaging cars in a parking lot as it fell to the ground. In that incident, the aircraft diverted and made a successful emergency landing at Los Angeles Airport – ironically, the location of this latest event.  

Under FAA scrutiny  

Following a stream of safety-related incidents involving United Airlines aircraft so far in 2024, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been scrutinizing safety and maintenance practices at the airline. In March, following the San Francisco 777 lost wheel event, The FAA said that it would be increasing oversight of the carrier following a spike in safety incidents since the start of 2024.    

Also in March 2024, another United Boeing 777 heading from Sydney to San Francisco was forced to return to the Australian airport following technical issues after takeoff. Later that same month, during a post-flight inspection at Rogue Valley International Airport, Oregon (MFR), it was discovered that a company Boeing 737-800 which had just operated a flight from San Francisco with 139 passengers and six crew onboard, had an underside fuselage panel missing.  

“Due to recent safety events, the FAA is increasing oversight of United Airlines to ensure that it is complying with safety regulations, identifying hazards and mitigating risk, and effectively managing safety,” a spokesperson for the FAA said.   

Then in May 2024, one of the carrier’s Boeing 787s returned to Singapore-Changi Airport (SIN) after reporting an engine failure after takeoff. The aircraft landed back in Singapore safely, following which a hole was discovered in the left engine cowling of the aircraft.   

The FAA updated its position later in May 2024 stating that its increased scrutiny of United Airlines was still ongoing following the spate of safety incidents, despite the carrier appearing to suggest the situation had been improving. 

“The certificate holder evaluation program that the FAA is conducting for United is ongoing and safety will determine the timeline for completing it,” the FAA confirmed in a statement.


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