There were a few very tense hours there on Tuesday (Aug. 21) as Post Malone‘s private Gulfstream IV jet blew two tires upon take-off for a flight to London, and fans were glued to their screens while the dramatic scene unfolded thousands of feet in the sky.
As the plane carrying Post and his crew flew in circles for four hours to burn off fuel before attempting a successful emergency landing at the tiny Stewart Airport in Orange County, New York, tensions were running high.
“When they said they lost two tires on takeoff I immediately thought, ‘Well, that’s strange that they both blew out,'” Rob Mark, the senior editor of Flying magazine and a licensed commercial pilot and air safety expert tells Billboard. Mark, who has no first-hand knowledge of what took place when the plane lifted off from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey earlier that morning, said his immediate concern was if both tires were on the same side of the plane, which would make for a much more dangerous situation.
Though there was no confirmation of exactly which two tires blew at press time, it was reportedly the two tires on the main nose gear that were affected. If you have to lose any tires, Mark says, those are the ones you’d want to sacrifice if necessary. “You can touch down on the [left and right] main tires and hold the nose off the ground pretty long before it touches down and then, like a car with a flat tire, it will tear up most of the tire and maybe the wheel,” he says. “You just don’t want that nose gear to collapse, because then you’ve got a fire risk and a risk of major damage.”
Once the crew realized they’d lost the tires, they began to fly in circles around Connecticut and the surrounding areas because, as Mark notes, a Gulfstream does not have the ability to dump fuel like a larger commercial airliner would. “They probably drop down to 10,000 or 12,000 feet and flew around to eat up gas to lighten the plane and put less stress on the landing gear and have less of a chance of fire if you slide in and the nose or wingtips touch the ground,” he says, speculating that the pilots probably realized there was a problem at takeoff if they felt something unbalanced as they prepared to leave the ground.
So why did they take off, anyway? “Once you get up to 100 miles per hour, it’s safer to continue the takeoff rather than stop, because you don’t know how the directional control will work at high speed and you don’t want that to lead to a worse situation,” Mark says. It’s also likely that the ground crew at Teterboro went out to the runway right away to see what kind of debris was left behind, whether rubber or pieces of metal, or to look for anything on the ground that might have caused the tire failure. With the average G-IV weighing around 73,000 pounds and an additional 20,000-25,000 of fuel on board (around 4,000 gallons), Mark says the pilot had to burn off enough fuel as to not have a crash landing be a danger, but not so much that the plane would not be able to land.
The pilot reportedly did a fly-by of the tower at Stewart Airport, at which point Mark says air traffic controllers using binoculars would have looked to see what shape the front landing gear and tires were in so that they could figure out a plan of action. “I’m sure they flew by with their landing gear down around 100 feet off the runway to get close to the tower and ask them to see what they could see,” says Mark.
With the plane likely slowed down to around 75-80 miles per hour upon landing, the pilot would have touched down on the rear left and right tires and held the nose up slightly to minimize stress on the front gear and held the nose steady. “They’re professionals, they make everything look easy and it sounds like they did everything right,” he says of the smooth touchdown that was webcast in real time by several news outlets (but which he did not see on Tuesday). There were reportedly 9 fire trucks and 12 ambulances standing by in case of any emergencies during the landing of the plane, which was carrying 16 passengers.
Mark says that given how rare this kind of accident is, pilots don’t necessarily practice this exact scenario, but they are trained to use their experience to plan for the unknown and prepare their passengers for any kind of landing. “This is rare — blowing both tires at the same time,” he says, noting that pilots do a walk-around of their planes before flights to check things like tire damage and wear. “I’m not second-guessing the crew at all, I assume they did the standard walk around, but to have two tires fail…” he says. “It’s possible they failed because of something on the runway that blew them out.”
The rapper was on his way to Luton Airport in Luton, England, following his performance at the 2018 MTV VMAs, where he joined Aerosmith for a run through their hits “Dream On” and “Toys in the Attic.”
“I’m alive. I’m ready to rock on,” Malone told Billboard in an official statement after arriving safely at Stewart Airport.