Pilots undergo vigorous training to learn how to fly a plane, and they have to undergo upwards of 1,500 hours of training to master take-offs, landings, and other such maneuvers to make the flight as comfortable for passengers as possible. However, apart from pilots, there is something else on which the success of take-offs and landings depends--shock-absorbing tires. The tires of an airplane hit the runway repeatedly when the plane is landing at a speed of 180 miles an hour and have to bear almost 40,000 kilograms of weight while on a ground surface. As a result, they are rigorously designed for reliability and performance that is necessary for ground operations.
It has taken a lot of knowledge, expertise, and experience from manufacturers to produce modern, high-quality aircraft tires. They have done so by keeping in mind all the necessary and critical design factors of such assemblies as ignoring even the smallest flaws in the aircraft tire design and manufacturing process can lead to catastrophic results. Not having a good maintenance practice is also equally dangerous, as scanty maintenance protocols and processes often detract from the lifespan of the tires.
Rubber, nylon, cord, and steel are combined together in the process of making aircraft tires through a process called vulcanization. It can be further defined as a chemical process performed to transform various kinds of polymers into durable materials with the help of crosslinks. Chemically treating synthetic plastics, like crude or rubber, gives them beneficial properties, like strength, stability, and elasticity.
Aircraft tires are usually composed of treads, inner treads, under treads, shoulders, casing, beads, chafers, and sidewalls. Beads are bundles of steel wires with high tensile strength, and every strand of steel wire is rubber compound-coated and wound into coils along the diameter of the tire. The function of the bead wire is to attach the tire to the rim, ensuring an impermeable seal. The area found between the bead and the shoulder is called the sidewall. This is protected with a layer of rubber, and the rubber is treated with antioxidants before use.
Made to sustain high wear and tear, treads are made from a unique composite rubber that can take on all the cutting, heat build-up, and chunking faced during typical operations. Treads significantly help in reducing aqua planning risk. They also improve grip and traction between the surface of the runway and the tread. The thick part of the tire is the shoulder, and the key function of this element is to provide protection and support to the tread and the sidewall. The shoulder is found between the tread center and the tire sidewall.
Multiple layers of fabric coating that have high rubber elasticity moduluses on either side for enhanced strength are called casing plies. They provide foundational strength to the tire and are found wrapped around the beads of the assembly. Chafers are mainly used to protect the tire and rim flange from chafing damage, which is the damage faced by the skin of the tire because of repeated rubbing action. Chafers are applied along the area of the bead clinch for eliminating chafing damage.
With regard to tire inflation, the changes in pressure and temperature that occur over time need to be kept in check. Whenever there is a 5-6 °F change in temperature, a 1% change in pressure in the same direction is seen. This is an important thing that should be noted if the airplane is going to face some extreme changes in ground temperature during a flight operation. If this is the case, the tires must be inflated as needed to make sure the minimum pressure required is maintained in cool climate conditions.
Another crucial thing to remember is that initially, for newly setup tires, the tire pressure will drop suddenly. This is normal and happens due to tire expansion, rather than being something very concerning. To keep this in check, the pressure of the tire must be monitored closely until stabilized at rated inflation.
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