Wheel Falls Off Boeing 757 During Takeoff At Atlanta Airport

"It just rolled off the runway behind you,” a pilot was heard telling the Delta flight's cockpit during Saturday's incident.

A wheel detached from the nose of a Boeing 757 airliner as it was preparing for takeoff in Atlanta on Saturday — the latest in a series of high-profile safety incidents and concerns that have troubled the aircraft manufacturer in recent weeks.

Delta Air Lines Flight 982 was taxiing on the runway at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, heading to Bogota, Colombia, when the nose wheel came off just after 11 a.m., a spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration said.

“One of your nose tires just came off, it just rolled off the runway behind you,” a pilot in a neighboring plane was heard informing the Delta plane’s cockpit, according to an audio recording obtained by ABC News.

A Delta Airlines Boeing 757 is pictured. A similar jet lost a nose wheel while preparing for takeoff from Atlanta over the weekend, the FAA said.
A Delta Airlines Boeing 757 is pictured. A similar jet lost a nose wheel while preparing for takeoff from Atlanta over the weekend, the FAA said.
via Associated Press

The plane, which the FAA reported was carrying 184 passengers and crew, was evacuated and the passengers were put on a replacement aircraft, a Delta spokesperson said Wednesday.

No one was injured and the aircraft was “re-tired and placed back into service the next day.” The event remains under investigation, the spokesperson said in an email to HuffPost.

The 757 aircraft is an older model whose production was discontinued in 2004. The 757 that lost its wheel in Atlanta was acquired in 1992, making it around 32 years old, Delta told Reuters. Civil airplanes typically have a 20 to 25-year economic life, but can be flown longer up to certain limits, per the Reuters report.

The incident comes amid heightened safety inspections of Boeing aircraft after part of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 jet’s fuselage blew out mid-flight earlier this month. Alaska and United Airlines have since said that they’ve found loose bolts and other installation issues with the model, which has been grounded by the FAA since the Jan. 5 scare.

“We don’t put planes in the air that we don’t have 100% confidence in,” Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun told reporters in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, according to Reuters. Calhoun plans to meet with U.S. senators on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the 737 Max 9 jets’ grounding, Reuters and Bloomberg reported. A Boeing representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker, in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday, vowed that the agency will have “boots on the ground” inspecting Boeing’s planes until its confidence is restored.

“We’re shifting from more of an audit approach to a direct inspection approach,” he said. The agency will keep checking Boeing planes until “we’re comfortable that the [quality assurance] system is working properly,” he added.

Also on Tuesday, the CEO of Alaska Airlines told NBC News that in-house inspections of its Boeing 737 Max 9 planes found “many” of them with loose bolts.

United Airlines reported similar discoveries on Jan. 8.

“I’m angry,” Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci said. “We’re sending our audit people to audit their quality control systems and processes to make sure that every aircraft that comes off that production line, that comes to Alaska, has the highest levels of excellence and quality.”

In addition to extra screening by the FAA, Boeing has said that it is expanding its safety inspections of the 737 planes’ build process. These inspections will include independent reviews by outsiders.

“We are taking action on a comprehensive plan to bring these airplanes safely back to service and to improve our quality and delivery performance. We will follow the lead of the FAA and support our customers every step of the way,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal said in a statement Tuesday.

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