A Lufthansa Airbus heading to Chicago burst a tire taking off from Munich on Wednesday. The flight was north of Glasgow when the decision was made to turn the plane around. The Airbus landed at Frankfurt/Main later on Wednesday evening.
Lufthansa Airbus turns around over Scotland
According to a report in The Aviation Herald, the Airbus A350-900 was over Scotland when told they had likely burst a tire when departing Munich. At this point, the plane was two hours into its journey.
The operating aircraft was D-AIXK Karlsruhe, a three-year-old Airbus with an until-now incident-free history. D-AIXX was operating LH434 from Munich across to Chicago O’Hare. LH434 is Lufthansa’s daily mid-afternoon service also operating as a codeshare with United Airlines and Air Canada. Flying time is normally around nine and a half hours.
The Aviation Herald reports the plane departed via Munich’s runway 26L and climbed to around 12,000 meters. Flight tracking websites show the Airbus crossing the European coastline just west of Amsterdam, soon after passing over the English coast south of the Humber River.
Southwest of Glasgow, D-AIXX veered onto a more northerly tracking. Ten minutes later, overflying the top of Loche Linnhe, the Airbus turned around. The Aviation Herald suggests the pilots were not aware of the burst tire until over Scotland. This indicates a post-departure runway inspection may have found tire debris.
A safe landing into Frankfurt Main
The flight’s return to Germany largely retraced the outbound tracking. The initial plan was to perform a low gear-down approach into Cologne Airport, likely to inspect the damage. As LH434 crossed the German border near Bruggen the aircraft is flying at 8,000 meters and then begins to descend swiftly.
After coming in low at Cologne, the plane climbed again before tracking towards Stuggart. Near Stuggart, D-AIXX turned east towards Munich. A circuitous routing took the plane north of Munich where it proceeded to fly a series of loops to burn off fuel.
Correspondents providing feedback on The Aviation Herald article question why the flight did not continue onto Chicago, given a burst tire doesn’t ordinarily necessitate a turnaround. Others questioned why the decision was made to burn fuel rather than dump it.
It was also noted Lufthansa may have preferred to utilize its own maintenance facilities and staff in Germany rather than rely on contracted third parties in Chicago.
While the A350-900 can jettison fuel, correspondents note it is environmentally preferable to burn off excess fuel rather than dump it. Others note the A350-900 is capable of landing overweight if necessary. However, a burst tire is a complicating factor.
Five hours and 45 minutes into the flight, D-AIXX broke off the loops over the top of Eichstaff and headed towards Frankfurt Main. The Airbus overflew the Kinzig River before performing another loop and heading into Frankfurt Main on a south-westerly tracking. The plane landed on runway 25C around 22:30. There were no reports of any injuries. The Airbus remains on the ground at Frankfurt.