Air traffic at Washington D.C.’s Reagan National Airport (DCA) was disrupted on Saturday after an American Eagle Embraer E175 faced burst tires on landing. As emergency services responded, the airport was forced to shut down some runways for a few hours to handle the emergency. By the evening local time, the airport had reopened some runways for operations. There were no injuries reported.
American Eagle E175 blocks runway at DCA
On Saturday, October 16th, American Airlines flight 4965, operated by Republic Airways, departed Memphis International Airport (MEM) at 13:22 local time. After about 90 minutes in the air, the aircraft landed at DCA at 15:53, local time, according to data from RadarBox.com. After landing, the aircraft found itself with an issue.
The aircraft faced a mechanical issue, later confirmed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to be a burst tire issue. The aircraft was deplaned on the runway using stairs, as video on social media showed:
UPDATE 2: 69 people on American Eagle jet exited in middle of Runway 1 & taken by bus to terminal. @Reagan_Airport ops effectively shut since before 4p. Officially described as "mechanical issue upon landing". @WTOP @WTOPtraffic @ARLnowDOTcom @petemuntean #aviation #dca #flights pic.twitter.com/OQ8iYkDGaU
— Dave Statter (@STATter911) October 16, 2021
The FAA released the following statement:
FAA to investigate flight AA4965 after the jet “blew several tires after landing” at DCA.
— errol barnett • cbs (@errolbarnett) October 16, 2021
Republic Airways provided the following statement to Simple Flying:
“Our flight 4965, operating as an American Eagle flight between Memphis International Airport and Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC, was disabled on Runway 1 at DCA after experiencing tire failures on landing. First responders and maintenance personnel are currently inspecting the aircraft and repositioning it to clear the runway. There are no reports of injuries and we have worked with the airport and our codeshare partner to deplane our passengers and their belongings.”
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Air traffic disrupted
As a result of the runway closures, air traffic was disrupted. Most flights from the airport were delayed as the runways were closed to manage the situation and ensure the safety of all other arriving aircraft. By 18:15 local time, two DCA runways reopened to allow the resumption of some air operations.
6:15pm update: 2 of the airport’s 3 runways are open and air traffic is resuming. Passengers should continue checking directly with their airline on any updates to the status of their flight prior to coming to the airport.
— Reagan Airport (@Reagan_Airport) October 16, 2021
DCA is close to two other major airports in the area. This includes Washington D.C.’s Dulles International Airport (IAD), DC’s long-haul international gateway and United hub, and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). Both of these airports handled aircraft diversions. Some flights were canceled.
Airports have plans to keep operations intact when incidents happen. However, in some instances, a situation can have knock-on effects that an airport cannot always rectify right away. For example, in the case of a burst tire upon landing, not only does the disabled aircraft have to be taken care of, but the airport has to ensure that there is no debris on a runway that could be sucked into another aircraft’s engine, impacting a jet’s departure or arrival.
Reagan National is one of two airports in the immediate Washington D.C. metro area that see commercial operations. BWI is an alternative airport, but it is primarily the gateway to Baltimore, Maryland. Of IAD, DCA, and BWI, DCA is the only airport that cannot handle widebody international aircraft arrivals.
DCA is governed by a perimeter rule. This regulation limits operations at the airport to cities within 1,250 statute miles from the airport. There are exceptions for a limited number of beyond-perimeter flights. Another structural limitation at DCA is that it has relatively short runways. Runway 1/19, where the aircraft was disabled, is the longest runway at DCA, about 7,000 feet. In comparison, IAD’s shortest runway is over 9,000 feet long. As a result, larger jets are not able to fly into DCA.