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Truth or Myth: Airplane Tires Will Explode if Filled With Too Much Air

Airplane landing tires are made to withstand hitting the tarmac at speeds of 170 mph, with a weight load of about 38-tons, and can tolerate about 500 landings before needing a re-tread.  Contrary to common beliefs, airplane tires are NOT going to explode if given a little too much air. 

Most airplane tires are inflated to 200 psi – compare that to our car tires which typically are around 33-34 psi.  When the plane’s tires first touchdown on the runway they are skidding, not rotating.  The force of the tires rotational velocity matches the planes velocity, causing them to skid and smoke.  Michelin uses grooves on their airplane tires, instead of the block patterns that you see on car tires.  Most of the wear and tear on airplane tires come from the initial moment of contact; if there were block patterns on these tires, the force of the contact would break them off, making them unable to properly stop.

A Boeing 777 aircraft requires 14 tires, Airbus’ A380 uses 22, and the Antonov An-225 needs 32.  The reason these aircrafts’ functionality is so efficient is because engineers have learned to maximize air pressure. 

Lee Bartholomew, lead test engineer for Michelin Aircraft Tires states, 

"It is almost impossible to blow out a tire by over inflating it and that cases where tires have been over-inflated, the wheel actually fails before the tire."

These tires must go through extensive tests to ensure they are suitable for flight.  Tires must be able to withstand four times their rated pressure for minimum of three seconds to be deemed satisfactory.

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July 28, 2022

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