27. September 2011
We know our pilots and equipment make it smooth, but in reality, the physics of a perfect airplane landing involve a lot of heat and force. It involves conditions that ordinary tires just can’t handle. That’s why airline tires are a step above the kinds you’d find in any other industry.
Although they move through the skies with ease, aircraft are heavy vehicles. Combined with the speed involved in a landing, aircraft are built to exert a lot of force on whatever is underneath them. That’s why aircraft tires are built with such a heavy duty design – they need to withstand the heavy load of a landing.
In addition, airplanes handle different road conditions (or landing strip conditions, to be precise) than a typical vehicle. Planes may need to deal with not only rain or snow, but crosswind conditions as well. Unique tread patterns on aircraft tires allow them to land in nearly any conditions.
We also mentioned the large amount of heat generated during a landing. This occurs when the tires come into contact with the runway and the plane begins deceleration. Aircraft tires use two design features to render this heat harmless. Firstly, aircraft tires are filled with pure nitrogen. Compared to oxygen, nitrogen hardly expands with heat and pressure changes (like when a plane ascends and descends). Because they are filled with nitrogen, the tires’ shape changes very little which allows for smoother landings. In fact, nitrogen has proven to be so effective in airline tires, other industries (such as auto racing) now fill their tires with nitrogen too.
However, unlike these other industries, aircraft tires do not blowout from friction generated heat. A specially designed heat fuse is installed in every tire. If the tire reaches a certain temperature, the heat fuse melts and expels nitrogen from the tire in a steady, controlled stream – allowing for a smooth and safe landing.
When you think about airplanes, you probable never think of tires. Yet, they are an important part of all aircraft that make every landing possible.