How Long Can Aircraft Tires Last?

How Long Can Aircraft Tires Last?

While most passengers focus on a smooth journey through the air, a critical component ensures a safe landing: aircraft tires. These unsung heroes endure immense pressure and wear despite their brief time touching the ground.

Unlike car tires, aircraft tires are specially designed to handle the tremendous weight and speed of a landing airplane. Imagine a Boeing 737 Max 9, tipping the scales at nearly 164,000 pounds, touching down at over 130 miles per hour! As Air Canada explains, the main landing gear tires handle this stress for an average of 300 to 450 landings.

Related: What Happens if an Aircraft Lands Overweight?

How Long Can Aircraft Tires Last?
Photo by SCM Jeans | iStock

This range reflects the varying conditions aircraft encounter. Debris like rocks, pavement fragments, and even accumulated rubber can accelerate wear. Nose gear tires, responsible for steering the aircraft, have an even shorter lifespan due to the additional stress of maneuvering.

Manufacturing giants like Goodyear and Michelin dedicate entire divisions to crafting these specialized tires. They’re far from scaled-up car tires. Aircraft tire mechanics inflate them to a staggering 200 psi, several times the pressure of your car tire. Safety cages even surround the tires during inflation to protect mechanics in case of a rare malfunction.

How Long Can Aircraft Tires Last?
Photo by Thanh Ho | iStock

Airlines don’t own their tires; instead, they lease them on a per-landing basis. This leasing system incentivizes both airlines and manufacturers to maximize tire lifespan. Worn tires are returned for retreading, a process that allows a single tire to be reused up to seven times according to Michelin.

So, the next time you board a plane, remember the silent heroes beneath you. Tire companies have a vested interest in ensuring a smooth landing, not just for passenger safety, but to avoid the cost of replacing a tire that wasn’t designed to last.


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