In our Ask a Pilot series, pilot Spencer Marker answers one of your aviation-related questions each week. See past installments here (this is the first week!) and submit your own`to email@example.com.
Have you ever landed a plane when a tire blew? Any of your friends? Is there a solid smaller tire inside just in case?
Hi Ed! Thanks for your question and for being the first to “Ask a Pilot”! I love talking about all things aviation and sincerely hope this column will help to provide some clarity to inquisitive minds.
While I have never had to deal with tire failure during my years flying the line, flight crews (including myself) are trained regularly to deal with these type of issues. Time is spent in the classroom and simulator to ensure we recognize the symptoms of a potential blown tire and depending on when the issue presents itself, take the proper corrective action.
Given the stresses tires encounter during takeoff and landing, they are designed to be incredibly tough. Most are rated for speeds of up to 235 miles per hour (according to Boeing) and are strong enough to hold up to the stress of hundreds upon hundreds of flights. That’s a lot of takeoffs and landings! In fact, airplane tires are also filled with nitrogen instead of air to increase the tire’s longevity and maintain it’s durability.
In addition to great engineering by our friends at Goodyear and Michelin (yes, they make airplane tires, too), before each flight, pilots carefully inspect each tire for proper wear and inflation. If there are signs a tire is not in tip-top shape, we will call mechanics to come out and replace the tire. A lot of effort goes into making sure the tires are up to snuff before each and every flight.
In rare cases, tire failure does happen. In the case of tire failure after an airplane lands, pilots are mindful to ensure the aircraft is decelerating and rolling down the center of the runway.
And while airplanes don’t have an internal solid back-up tire, tires on airliners are mounted side-by-side in pairs (the massive Boeing 777 has three pairs mounted on one landing gear). This arrangement is primarily used to spread the weight of the aircraft more evenly on the pavement, but also provides a back-up if a tire fails. Essentially, the other tires are capable of supporting the weight of the aircraft if one fails. As is with all things in aviation, safety and redundancy are incorporated into everything we do.
Thanks again for your question, Ed—and if you have a burning aviation question or something you would like cleared up, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to get your question featured in an upcoming “Ask a Pilot” column.
Clear skies and tailwinds,