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1. Q: Which of the following best describes an aircraft tire?

A. Round, black, and dirty

B. Same as a car tire but more expensive
C. Dead weight
D. A highly engineered composite structure designed to carry heavy loads at high speeds in the
smallest and lightest configuration practical
While answer A is true, answer D is in fact the most accurate description of an aircraft tire.
Despite this, they are one of the most underrated and most misunderstood parts on the aircraft.
They are, in fact, considerably different from an automobile tire. For example, a 737 nose tire is
nearly identical in size to a typical passenger car tire, but it is rated for almost 10,000 pounds load
at 200 pounds per square inch and 225 miles per hour. Four main differences help the aircraft tire
to accomplish this:
1. More plies: car tires typically have one or two plies (layers of rubber-coated fabric cords), while
aircraft tires contain as many as 20 plies. The 737 nose tire in the example has 6 plies.
2. Different components: aircraft tires use nylon fabric (most car tires use polyester) and highly
specialized rubber compounds designed for their particular function in the tire.
3. Simpler tread design: tread patterns consist only of tread ribs between several deep, wide
cirumferential grooves.
4. Higher deflection: an aircraft tire typically runs at 32 percent deflection, while a car tire runs at
only 11 percent deflection.
Another major difference is that 80 percent of aircraft tires are bias-ply tires, which have multiple
layers with ply cords at alternating angles substantially less than 90 degrees to the tread
centerline. Automobiles use radial tires, in which all plies run in the same direction and 90
degrees to the tread centerline. Radial tires are becoming more common, as aircraft
manufacturers take advantage of their lighter weight and additional landings per tread. Radials
are rarely retrofitted onto existing airplanes due to the high cost of certification for the airframer.

Cut-away view of bias tire construction.

Cut-away view of radial tire construction.

These differences are important to understand because they dictate different procedures for
properly maintaining and caring for aircraft tires. Most people check their car tire inflation once a
month, if that. Aircraft tires should be checked for proper inflation DAILY. There are several
reasons for this. Tubeless aircraft tires lose inflation pressure more quickly than car tires; up to 5
percent in 24 hours is allowable per FAA limits. The higher deflection that aviation tires use is
designed to carry high loads while limiting heat generation from sidewall flexing to an acceptable
level. However, that means that small amounts of additional deflection bring rapidly increasing
heat generation and thus, rapidly diminishing tire durability. When that fact is coupled with the
faster inflation loss, it means that pressures should be checked daily to ensure that the tire is not
Overdeflection, which can be caused by underinflation and/or overloading, is very damaging to
the tire. It produces uneven tire wear and greatly increases stress and flex heating in the tire,
which shortens tire life and can lead to tire damage and eventually blowouts or other serious
problems. This might lead one to play it safe and overinflate the tire, but this is not the correct
answer, since overinflation can cause uneven treadwear, reduce traction, make the tread more
susceptible to cutting, and increase stress on the wheels. Hence, the only acceptable solution is
to check inflation pressures daily, which is the single most important maintenance item for aircraft

The above test results for a 40x14 tire show the consequences of even slight underinflation.
Following are the eight steps of proper inflation procedures (When servicing assemblies, always
use a bottle or supply line with a pressure regulator, which should be set 50 percent higher than
the rated pressure of the tire. Extreme overinflation from an unregulated pressure supply can
cause the wheel or tire to burst, leading to injury or death):


Tire pressures should always be checked with the tire at ambient temperatures. Tire temperatures
can rise in excess of 200o F (93o C) above ambient during operation. A temperature change of
5o F (3o C) produces approximately 1 percent pressure change. It can take up to three hours
after a flight for tire temperatures to return to ambient.
When tires are going to be subjected to ground temperature changes in excess of 50o F (27o C)
because of flight to a different climate, inflation pressures should be adjusted to worst case prior
to takeoff so that the minimum required inflation is maintained for the cooler climate.
Nitrogen will not sustain combustion and will reduce degradation of the liner material, casing plies
and wheel due to oxidation.
A tire under the load of an aircraft has 4 percent higher pressure than it does when unloaded.
Therefore, if unloaded pressure has been specified in the manual but the tire is being checked on
aircraft, that number should be increased by 4 percent to obtain the equivalent loaded inflation
All tires, particularly bias tires, will stretch (or grow) after initial mounting and inflation. This
increased volume of the tire results in a pressure drop. Consequently, tires should not be placed
in service until they have been inflated a minimum of 12 hours, pressure rechecked, and tires reinflated if necessary.
Excess inflation pressure should never be bled off from hot tires. All adjustments to inflation
pressure should be performed on tires cooled to ambient temperature.


To prevent one tire on a gear from carrying extra load, all tires on a single gear should be inflated
equally. The mate tires will share the load, allowing individual tires to run underinflated or
overloaded even though all tires on the gear are deflected identically.
Use an accurate, calibrated gauge. Inaccurate gauges are a major source of improper inflation
pressures. Gauges should be checked periodically and recalibrated as necessary.
Remember, keeping tires correctly inflated is the single most important factor in any maintenance
2. Q: Why do tires lose pressure?
A. High inflation pressure
B. Weep holes
C. Using natural rubber tubes
D. All of the above plus numerous other sources in the assembly
There are numerous sources of pressure loss in tubeless wheel/tire assemblies, including the
valve, fuse plug, pressure plug, wheel base, o-ring seal, tire growth, temperature change, tire
damage, improper bead seating, or an inaccurate gauge. In tube-type applications, natural rubber
tubes lose pressure faster than butyl tubes. Tire casing vents, a.k.a. weep holes, relieve pressure
buildup in the casing plies and by design will continually allow air or nitrogen in the casing to
escape. This pressure loss should be within the allowable 5 percent in 24 hours. If not, a
systematic troubleshooting process can be followed to determine the root cause.
3. Q: What is the most common reason for early tire removal?
A. Flat spots
B. Sidewall cracking
C. Low pressure
D. Cuts and other foreign object damage (FOD)
FOD is indeed the number one cause of early tire removal. Nuts, bolts, rocks, etc. will easily cut
aircraft tires. While not completely controllable, FOD can be minimized by keeping hangar floors
clean and reporting pavement breaks and debris to the airport authorities. A good general rule for
cut or damage limits is to remove any tire with damage that extends to the fabric, whether it is in
the tread or sidewall. Removal criteria for cuts in the tread are more specific: any cut into the
casing plies on bias tires, any cut into fabric on radial tires, any cut to fabric which extends across
one or more rubber tread ribs, or rib undercutting at the base of any cut. While inspecting inflated
tires, do not probe cracks, cuts, or embedded foreign objects.

FOD collected from tires at initial inspection at Goodyears Atlanta retread plant.
4. Q: How do you determine when to remove a tire for wear limits?
A. When the pilot/mechanic/owner says so
B. When the second layer of fabric is visible
C. When there is a minimum of 2/32 of tread left
D. When the tire is worn to the bottom of the groove at any point
Tires should be removed when tread has worn to the bottom of any groove at any spot. Yes, there
are military tires that wear through numerous layers of fabric, but these are designed specifically
for this and the limits are marked on the sidewall. Tires have varying numbers of plies, and on
some tires, wearing through any layers leaves too small of a safety margin. Wearing to the
bottom of the groove is the best compromise point between safety and obtaining the most
5. Q: What are the age limits for aircraft tires?
A. Use until the tire turns brown
B. Remove when the sidewall starts to crack
C. 10 years
D. There are none
There is no age limit for aircraft tires, provided that they are properly stored and maintained and
all inspection criteria are met. Proper storage practices include keeping tires in a cool, dry place
out of direct sunlight and away from fluorescent lights, electric motors, and other ozone
producers. Care should be taken that tires do not come in contact with oil, gasoline, jet fuel,
hydraulic fluids, or similar hydrocarbons. If desired, the age of the tire can be determined from the
tires serial number, where the first number is the year of production and the next three are the
Julian date of manufacture (for example, a tire with serial number 20341111 was built on the 34th
day of 2002, i.e. February 3rd). Age combined with ozone or excessive service conditions can
cause cracks to form on the sidewalls or in the bottoms of the grooves (known as ozone cracking,
weather checking, or groove cracking). This is not a cause for removal unless fabric is visible in
the cracks.
6. Q: What is the cause of flat spots?
A. Landing with the brakes on
B. Hydroplaning

C. Parking the aircraft for a long time

D. All of the above
There are three different types of flat spots: skid spots, skid burns, and nylon sets. Skid spots are
caused by skidding the tire across the runway, usually from overzealous braking. Skid burns are
caused by hydroplaning on water or skidding on ice. Although skid burns result in ugly reverted
rubber on the flat spot, removal criteria for both of these types of flat spots are the same: remove
the tire only if fabric is exposed or unacceptable vibration results. Nylon sets, a.k.a. cold sets or
casing flat spots, are a different matter. They result from parking the aircraft with load on the tires,
and the severity depends on several factors including temperature, inflation, load, and length of
time under these conditions. Nylon sets usually disappear by the end of the taxi roll. They can be
prevented by occasionally moving a parked aircraft or by jacking up an aircraft expected to be
parked over 30 days.
7. Q: How many times can a tube be reused?
A. None, tire companies need your money
B. Once
C. Until they start to crack
D. None, they grow in service and dont fit into a new tire
While answer A is of course true, its not the real reason to avoid reusing tubes. Tubes grow in
service just like tires, and a grown tube is too large to fit well in a new tire. This leads to a chance
that the tube will wrinkle or crease, which can cause vibration or tube failure.

Typical example of tube fold.

8. Q: Why does my landing gear vibrate?
A. The gear needs to be serviced
B. The tire is excessively out of round or out of balance
C. The tire and wheel were not assembled properly
D. Any of the above
There are numerous causes of gear vibration, most of which are not the fault of the tire. They
include gear alignment, worn or loose gear components, out of round or out of balance tires from
flat spotting, improperly assembled tires, improperly installed tubes, improperly torqued axle or
wheel nuts, incorrectly balanced wheel assemblies, etc.

9. Q: What are the numerous V-shaped cuts on the tread of some tires?
A. FOD from a thumbtack spill
B. Defective tread compound
C. Damage from rolling over a cheese grater
D. Chevron cuts
Chevron cuts occur frequently on higher pressure tires operating on runways with cross-cut
grooves. They happen primarily when the tread is still deep and will often wear off and disappear
before the tire is fully worn. Despite their unattractive appearance, they are not cause for removal
unless they cause tread chunking down to the fabric.

Typical example of chevron cuts.

10. Q: How can I operate my aircraft to get the optimal life from my tires?
A. Always make the first turn
B. Get to the ramp as quickly as possible
C. Use heavy braking to bring the aircraft speed down as soon as possible
D. None of the above
To get the maximum life from tires, follow the opposite of choices A, B and C. Land at the correct
point on the runway using the correct speed. Select a later turnoff; making the first turn often
requires heavy braking and high-speed cornering, both of which are hard on tires. Taxi slowly,
take wide turns, and dont ride the brakes while taxiing. These practices will help get better life
from wheels and brakes as well.
By now, you have probably realized that answer D is the correct answer to each question.
Understanding these questions and their answers will help you to achieve the best performance
from your aircraft tires. The most important factor is maintaining the proper inflation in the tires.
Tires are often the last thing an owner, pilot, or mechanic thinks about when it comes to aircraft
maintenance, yet its pretty hard to get off the ground without them. Following these guidelines
will enhance tire performance and ensure extended tire life.