Aircraft tires: Up, up and away!
Does any of the technology it takes to put together an aircraft tire filter down to consumer or commercial tire production? Is it something you can use to sell a tire, perhaps an ultra-high performance tire?
Those were the questions I hoped to answer when I decided to write about aircraft tires for Modern Tire Dealer. The impetus for the story was the news last fall that Sentaida Group Co. Ltd. was manufacturing aircraft tires at its Qingdao Sentury Tire Co. Ltd. plant in China.
Few manufacturers have the technology to produce aircraft tires, which include airplane and helicopter tires. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Groupe Michelin and Bridgestone Corp. are three of the larger players. There are only a few others.
Is there a technological link between aircraft tires and the products tire dealers sell? Read on to find out.
How aircraft tires are unique
“Aviation tires are subjected to forces and dynamics that tires in other segments do not encounter, at least not simultaneously,” says Bert Aertssen, general manager, global aviation for Goodyear.
“For example, some tires used on airliners are required to support weights that are comparable to large earthmoving (OTR) machines, while operating at speeds comparable to a NASCAR race tire.”
Charles Szpara, field service engineer at Bridgestone Aircraft Tire (USA) Inc., says aircraft tires must be designed to sustain high speeds of up to 235 mph, “which is similar to the speed that racing tires experience.” Also, all the tires together on an aircraft must be able to support a load up to 569 metric tons, which is similar to OTR tires.
“The aircraft tire composition must be designed to withstand high heat and high deflection, which is caused by the combination of high speeds and high loads. “
Szpara adds that because of the unique application of aircraft tires, “the innovative technology used in development is rarely used in other applications.”
According to Keat Pruszenski, customer support engineering manager for Michelin Aircraft Tire Co. LLC, aircraft tires operate at a very high deflection rate, almost twice that of a car tire and three times that of a truck tire.
“The high deflection allows for a smaller tire to be used for the same load, which helps the designers address limited spacing in the aircraft wheel well.”
The Sentaida aircraft tires developed for the main landing gear of the Boeing 737-700/800/900 aircraft have passed all the tests as specified in the Federal Aviation Administration’s technical standards (TSOC62e-2006 “Aircraft Tires”). They also have met all security requirements.
“Now, our company’s airworthiness of the aircraft tire project is underway, and finally, we will possess the production capacity of 40,000 high performance aircraft tires,” says Lanny Lin, president of the Sentaida Group.
Sentaida manufactures all its consumer, commercial and aircraft tires under one roof in Qingdao.
A truly independent distributor
“Aviation tires also differ from other tires in terms of how they are distributed,” says Goodyear’s Aertssen. “Aircraft original equipment manufacturers procure aviation tires for both the production line and as spares. Our aviation tires also are sold through a highly trained distribution network. They are not widely available to the general public, like passenger tires are, for example.”
Desser Tire & Rubber Co., an independent tire dealership based in Montebello, Calif., is part of that network. The company caters to the aircraft industry with Goodyear, Michelin, Aero Classic (Specialty Tires of America Inc.), Condor (Michelin) and Dunlop (Dunlop Aircraft Tyres Ltd.) brand tires. It also is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration and European authorities to retread more than 100 types and sizes of tires, including those that can travel up to 225 mph.
As a full-line original equipment and replacement aircraft tire distributor, Desser handles everything from small general aviation tires to military/commercial transport sizes. “Aircraft tire distribution is typically done though aircraft parts suppliers, not tire dealers,” says Steven Chlavin, president of Desser Tire. “This is a very specialized/niche business. There are plus or minus 10 factory authorized distributors of various means and size.” Chlavin says Desser and Aviall Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing Co., are the largest aircraft tire suppliers in the United States and worldwide.
“Typically, the larger airlines and the U.S. military will buy directly from the manufacturers, but in recent years, the trend has moved towards the manufacturers working closely with key distributors to handle larger clients.” ■
Up in the air: Airplane tire prices vary greatly
The tire size for the Boeing 737’s main landing gear is H44.5x16.5-21. It weighs from 185 to 203 pounds. It costs thousands of dollars.
Desser Tire & Rubber Co. says a size 600x6 six-ply tire, found on Cessna and Piper airplanes, is more common. Here is the typical market pricing among brands offered in this size.
Airhawk (STA): $76
Condor (Michelin): $98
Goodyear Flight Special: $116
Michelin Aviator: $126
Michelin Air: $188
Goodyear Flight Custom: $202
The price for a size 1400x530R23 Michelin tire for the New Airbus 380 Double Decker is $5,500.