United Airlines’ Rough Week Somehow Just Got Worse

Chris Helgren/Reuters
Chris Helgren/Reuters

A United Airlines flight rolled off a runway shortly after landing in Houston on Friday morning—capping a tough week of viral mishaps for the carrier.

The latest incident occurred around 8 a.m. Friday after a Boeing 737 MAX 8 rolled off the runway at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Images show the plane tilted on its side, with its left wing touching the ground.

Airport and United spokespeople said the plane was evacuated on a taxiway, with passengers instructed to leave their luggage behind as firefighters ushered them onto buses. Nobody was injured in the incident, United said.

The flight, from Memphis, had 160 passengers and six crew members on board. Passengers told local media the plane left the runway seemingly out of the blue, with one telling Click2Houston it felt like the plane suddenly had a flat tire.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it’s probing the incident. Recordings between the cockpit and air traffic control that were shared online suggested the plane suffered from a left main landing gear collapse, but it’s unclear if that’s what caused the incident, or if it occurred after the plane exited the taxiway.

On Thursday, a Boeing 777 taking off for Japan from San Francisco International Airport lost part of its wheel, which then plummeted below and totaled two cars in an airport employee parking lot. Miraculously, no one was injured in the parking lot, and the flight was diverted to Los Angeles where emergency personnel were waiting in case of an issue at landing.

Tire Plummets From United Flight Into Airport’s Employee Parking Lot

On Monday, passengers recorded flames shooting out of a Boeing 737 engine on a United flight to Florida—an incident that forced the plane to return to Houston. An airline spokesperson said the “compressor stall” broke out after bubble wrap on the airfield got sucked into the engine at takeoff. The flight was safely deplaned as normal in Houston, the airline said.

“I remember there was just this bright flashing light that came through the window and it sounded like a bomb went off,” one passenger, David Gruninger, told WOAI. “And then it was just a strobe of fire out the window.”

Gruninger added that people were “screaming and crying” on the flight.

Those incidents came on the heels of a United flight that suffered an engine failure over the Pacific Ocean on Monday as it flew to San Francisco from Hawaii. The Boeing 757 landed safely in San Francisco after declaring a mid-air emergency.

Another United flight, bound for Newark from London, had to divert to Bangor, Maine, on March 1, but not because of operational failures. Instead, airline authorities said a pair of drunken passengers were being disruptive on board the Boeing 767 and had become a security issue. They were both banned from future United flights.

Adding to United’s headache, the National Transportation Safety Board announced this week its probing an issue with “stuck” rudder pedals that United pilots reported experiencing during a landing rollout last month.

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