Why plane tires don’t explode when landing

  • Plane tires can handle thousands of pounds of weight and high speeds – and it’s mostly due to how they’re made.
  • A combination of sturdy materials and nitrogen create a tire strong enough to handle the rigorous conditions upon landing.
  • Goodyear, one of the leading manufacturers of plane tires, gave us a look inside its factory to see how it ensures tires are up to its standards.
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Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: If you dropped a watermelon at 170 mph, it would be a mess. Strap over 500,000 pounds to its back and it would be, well, nothing.

But airplane tires manage that impact every day, without incident. They’re made to withstand hitting the pavement at extreme speeds, all while supporting an entire commercial jet. Don’t think too hard about it next time you’re in the air, but 45 inches of rubber is the only thing standing between you and the tarmac during landing.

So, what makes them tough enough for the job?

If you’ve ever driven down a US highway, you’ve probably seen shredded tires along the way. Semitruck tires aren’t supposed to explode, but they do. Airplane tires? Not so much. There are a few differences between the two.

First of all, a semitruck isn’t falling out of the sky as part of its route. Those tires don’t need to be made to withstand the same high speeds and weights. Airplane tires, on the other hand, need to be reinforced.

Brandy Moorhead: They’re made with a combination of proprietary synthetic rubber compounds, which are paired with aluminum steel reinforcements and nylon and aramid fabrics.

Narrator: That’s Brandy. She’s in charge of Goodyear’s aircraft tires, and she told us that airplane tires are inflated twice as much as truck tires and six times as much as a car’s. That’s because the higher the pressure, the firmer the tire, and the more strength it has to support the plane. And when they’re inflated, it’s not with regular air. Airplane tires are filled with nitrogen.

Brandy: Nitrogen is an inert gas, so high temperatures and pressure changes have less effect.

Narrator: Plane tires are subjected to the most rigorous conditions of any vehicle tire. When Goodyear develops a new airplane tire, it starts with a prototype. Then the tires are tested beyond their breaking points. They’re tested for speed, pressure, and the ability to handle a load up to 38 tons. So they have to be made very differently than other tires. Instead of the blocky design seen on a lot of car tires, plane tires get groovy.

Brandy: That blocked pattern enables different maneuvering and different characteristics of ride and handling, which are required by an automobile, as opposed to just an aircraft that takes off and lands on a runway. The reason we have grooves in an aircraft tire at all is because we need to evacuate water if we were to land on a wet surface.

Narrator: Commercial jets usually have around 20 tires and touch down about 500 times before they have to be retread, which can be done seven times before the tire’s no better than scrap rubber. And tires at the nose of the plane tend to have shorter life spans than the rest.

It takes two mechanics up to an hour to change a single tire. They raise the tire only 5 centimeters off the ground, which doesn’t feel like enough room to fit a thumb, let alone change a plane tire. The mechanics take off the hubcap and reduce the tire pressure from 200 to 30 psi, which reduces the risk of it exploding as the bolts and nuts holding it on the plane are removed. A sleeve protects the axle, and a lifting tool pulls the tire off. The axle sleeve is then greased, and the new tire is slid smoothly on. And then things move in reverse: nuts and bolts, tire reinflated to 200, hubcap back on, and the whole thing is gently lowered 5 centimeters back onto the ground.

So, what happens after 500 landings, seven retreadings, and uncountable “This is your captain speaking”s? A lot of the tires get recycled into playground mulch and even other tires for farming equipment. Those tires will be made from old plane tires, but not like them. There’s no need. Because if a farmer is using their tractor the same way they’d use a plane, well, they’re doing it wrong.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in October 2019.

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Cooper Tire spikes 27% after Goodyear agrees to buy it for $2.8 billion

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Goodyear is splits between what Chief Technology Officer Chris Helse calls “tires and beyond-tires.”

  • Shares of Cooper Tire surged 27% on Monday on news that Goodyear Tire will acquire the company for $2.8 billion.
  • Goodyear shares traded 16% higher on the announcement. 
  • Cooper shareholders will receive $41.75 per share in cash and 0.907 shares of Goodyear common stock per Cooper share, 
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell

Shares of Cooper Tire & Rubber Company surged 27% on Monday on news that Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company is buying it for $2.8 billion, solidifying Goodyear’s spot as the reading company in the US market. 

Goodyear shares traded 16% higher. 

Cooper shareholders will receive $41.75 per share in cash and 0.907 shares of Goodyear common stock per Cooper share, amounting to $2.8 billion. This will roughly be about $54.36 per share in total, according to a release from the companies on Monday.

Goodyear shareholders will own around 84% of the combined company while Cooper shareholders will own approximately 16%. The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2021, the companies said.

“The addition of Cooper’s complementary tire product portfolio and highly capable manufacturing assets, coupled with Goodyear’s technology and industry-leading distribution, provides the combined company with opportunities for improved cost efficiency and a broader offering for both companies’ retailer networks,” Richard J. Kramer, Goodyear chairman, chief executive officer, and, president said in a statement

The merger will expand Goodyear’s product offering and will also create a stronger American-based manufacturer with an increased presence in distribution and retail channels. In China, the merger will nearly double Goodyear’s presence. 

The combination of the two companies, both based in Ohio, will build on Goodyear’s original equipment and premium replacement tires and Cooper’s light truck and SUV segments.  

Goodyear is one of the world’s largest tire companies, doing business in 21 countries. Cooper meanwhile, is the fifth largest tire manufacturer in North America by revenue and is present in over 15 countries. 

While the tire industry is still recovering from the decline in sales during the pandemic, the combined company will have approximately $17.5 billion in pro forma 2019 sales, release published on Monday.

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