I have read about a lot of incidents where airplanes lose one of the tires on rotation, yet they cancel the flights and go back for an emergency landing at the departure airport, risking overweight landing or burn fuel for 2 hours until they are within the MLM.

My question is why don't they choose to continue the flight to the destination since they already airborne?

Fixing tire out of station seems much cheaper than burning or dumping fuel to me.

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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, a non-native lurker here - could you please explain the meaning of on rotation? $\endgroup$ Nov 26 '19 at 5:31
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    $\begingroup$ @CopperKettle "on rotation" is the moment when the plane's nose gets up (take off). The plane "rotates" upwards, so to speak, although it's just a few degrees. $\endgroup$
    – PerlDuck
    Nov 26 '19 at 7:44
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    $\begingroup$ Concorde 4590 was brought down by a burst tire on rotation. $\endgroup$
    – Ian Kemp
    Nov 26 '19 at 12:47
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    $\begingroup$ Some do continue - aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/29663/… $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Nov 27 '19 at 12:34

Blown tire - can't raise gear, shredded tire will not fit in the bay. ->

Gear down - much lower maximum speed and lots of additional drag ->

Both of those mean very poor fuel economy ->

Very poor fuel economy means not enough fuel to reach destination

So that's off the table. Given that, there's no question that it's better to follow the safest course... And you had an extremely high pressure tire just explode, a couple feet away from the airplane's skin.

Especially when that brings you back to a field that is in fact an operating base for that airline, and is likely to have inspection and repair services, and may have a spare airplane. I could see a Southwest flight out of SJC diverting to nearby OAK, since OAK is a main operating base for Southwest and will have an easier time fixing or replacing the aircraft.

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    $\begingroup$ If I remember correctly, Terry once told us that "gear down" needs almost twice as much fuel compared to "gear retracted" (in the 747s he has flown). $\endgroup$
    – PerlDuck
    Nov 24 '19 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ 'Nother problem .. they are here at an airport with conditions that allowed start / landing .. which can't be automatically assumed for the target airport $\endgroup$
    – eagle275
    Nov 26 '19 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ "Blown tire - can't raise gear, shredded tire will not fit in the bay" - and might be on fire. $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Nov 27 '19 at 22:22

That kind of thing would be a judgment call on the part of the crew (ultimately the capt) and would come down to what is the safest action based on the circumstances, with logistical/convenience considerations being a distant second.

When you have a blown tire you will want to avoid raising the gear, because they can catch fire and you don't want to retract the fire into the fuselage (and your own fire detection system won't tell you this until it's retracted, so you really won't know until it's too late). On top of that, you may have engine damage, especially if they are tail mounted, and/or flap damage.

So the imperative is to get the hell back down post-haste. However, the airport is also a consideration. Most of the time the departure airport has long runways and good emergency services, so the crew will elect to do a turnback even if fuel dumping is necessary. In other circumstances, say if the departure airport is remote and has short runways with minimal emergency facilities, the crew may elect to divert to the nearest airport with suitable facilities, and will likely do the diversion leaving the gear down.

Individual airlines may have specific policies on this as well, and a capt at one airline may have more discretion on what to do than another.

  • $\begingroup$ Sometime tires are retracted because the pilots dont realise they have blown the tire and only be aware of it when the tower inform them of debris on the runway, assuming destination airport is well equipped to handle this sorta of emergecny, still didnt understand why not proceed with the flight? also i didnt find any source confirm that you cannot retract blown gear .. $\endgroup$
    – Adham
    Nov 25 '19 at 11:18
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    $\begingroup$ It's assumed they would know they blew a tire or they wouldn't have to apply "judgement". Yes sometimes they don't. On a heavy or corporate a/c with a heavily insulated cabin there may only be a faint bump sound. There is nothing printed anywhere that says you CAN"T retract with a blown tire; it's just bad airmanship. The Nationair incident drove it home. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Nov 25 '19 at 13:07

Because an emergency landing is preferred to gambling the airplane and the lives of everyone on board just to save a few bucks. One of the fundamental rules of professional flying: Never attempt normal operations or try tricks with a compromised airplane. You might get away with it once, but sooner or later it will get you and, with a $300 million airplane and 270 souls aboard, there will be hell to pay.

Blown tires, with the kinds of tire pressures used, are dangerous. Depending on what caused the tire to fail, there can be additional damage to the aircraft. And let’s not forget that you will have to land with a failed tire which has serious damage and fire risks associated with it as well. An emergency cannot be treated casually under any circumstance. In the wake of the Concorde accident in 2000, flight crews don’t take risks with that. Your best policy with a tire failure post V1 is 1) get airborne 2) assess the situation and contact ATC for additional help from the ground 3) select the best airfield nearby or within flying distance for a emergency landing 4) dump fuel for the minimum aboard needed to attempt the landing and 5) conduct an emergency landing with crash and fire crews waiting.

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    $\begingroup$ The first bit of the second paragraph is true regardless of if the aircraft lands at the departure or destination airport. $\endgroup$ Nov 24 '19 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ The first part of the first paragraph is also true, regardless of if the aircraft lands at the departure or destination airport. $\endgroup$
    – jvriesem
    Nov 25 '19 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ @jvriesem: not quite: when flying between airports instead of circling one, you're farther from a runway if a problem develops and you need to land immediately, regardless of burning off more fuel. $\endgroup$ Nov 26 '19 at 14:19

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