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Why Don’t Airplane Tires Explode?

The reason why airplane tires do not explode is that their design and technology have reached peak safety levels. Sided by strong regulations and strict tire maintenance policies, the industry keeps the airborne sector safe. Eric Adams, veteran aerospace and military journalist, explains in an article on Wired that ordinary airplane tires don’t need to be re-treaded until they’ve hit the ground 500 times. Additionally, each tire can be re-tread seven times if not damaged. Some planes like the Airbus A380 roll with 20 tires, while others, like the massive Antonov An-225 need 32 tires.

“The key to their remarkable durability is maximizing the air pressure,” Lee Bartholomew, lead test engineer for Michelin Aircraft Tires, told Wired. Airplane tires are inflated at 200 psi, about six times more pressure than automobile tires. Another big stress for airplane tires is during taxiing when they support the massive weight of the craft without significant acceleration forces. During the first seconds of landing the tires of a plane do not roll but are actually dragged by the aircraft, hence the skidding sound everyone hears during landing.

The combination of extreme pressure and nitrogen inflation are the reasons why tires do not explode, burst, or disintegrate when landing. Even if a tire would burst, the nitrogen in the tire would prevent it from exploding. Goodyear, a leading tire manufacturer for commercial, military, and civilian aircraft, with more than 3 million landings tested in their facilities, explains that risks of explosions do exist. These include: tires exposed to extremely high temperatures, exceeded pressures of inflation, physical damage, foreign objects, cuts, and cracks on a tire. The FAA and other safety organizations recommend best practices for airplane tire safety to be met.

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