Kick the Tires and Light the Fires

Maintenance practices include proper installation, inflation, and removal.

Kick the tires and light the fires — colorful jargon but poor advice concerning safety and the service life of aircraft tires.

Modern aircraft tires are dependable and capable of dealing with weather extremes, less than stellar landings, high-speed turnoffs, long taxi routes, and significant vibrations on rollout and takeoff.

Aircraft tires are expensive, complex components that are vital to safe aircraft operations. They are dependable and reliable but not indestructible. They require a significant amount of care and maintenance from owners, operators, and maintainers. Servicing tires should be as important as the check and replenishment of engine oils and hydraulic fluids. The recommendations and requirements for tire care and preventive maintenance are straightforward and clearly stated in both OEM and FAA documentation. They provide advice and direction that should be the foundation of tire maintenance programs.

Tire care and preventative maintenance

FAA Advisory Circular AC 65-15A (Chapter 9) and AC 20-97B dated 4/18/05, initiated by AFS-306, titled “Aircraft Tire Maintenance and Operational Practices” provides recommended tire care and maintenance practices needed to assure the safety of support personnel and the continued airworthiness of aircraft. Specifically, this AC provides guidance on the installation, inflation, maintenance, and removal of aircraft tires. In addition, it provides guidance on the operational practices necessary to maintain safe aircraft operations. The AC recommends that “operators should comply with tire inspection recommendations specified in the tire manufacturer’s CMM, and consult the tire inspection advice set forth in this document.”

Both the FAA AC and the Goodyear Tire Care and Maintenance Manual stress tire preventative maintenance. Chapter Four: Preventative Maintenance in the Goodyear manual states, “Tires cannot be taken for granted on any aircraft. Tire maintenance costs will be at their lowest and tire life will be at its longest if proper maintenance practices are observed. Safe tire operation also depends on proper maintenance. Thus, preventive tire maintenance leads to safer, more economical operations.”

They specifically address daily inspections and inflation checks. The AC states that “accurately maintaining the correct inflation pressure is the single-most effective task in the preventive maintenance regimen for safe tire operations.” Both recommend that tire pressure should be checked daily or before the first flight with a calibrated gauge that is rated to read the pressure of the tires being checked.

OEM inflation procedures

Larry Rapsard, Goodyear’s North American aviation product support manager for GA Tires, agrees that the most important factor of any aircraft tire maintenance program is maintaining proper inflation pressure. His experience is considerable and as a Goodyear rep and Inspection Authorization (IA) renewal trainer, he’s seen and heard firsthand the detrimental effects of inadequate tire maintenance. Rapsard also recommends that aircraft tire inflation pressure should be checked daily because aircraft tires can lose up to 5 percent of their pressure each day.

Compensating for differences in temperature is one area where maintainers have room for improvement. For example, if pressure is checked in a warm hangar and then the aircraft is taken outside into a much colder condition and it sits for an hour or so before takeoff, tire pressure will drop.

Which is worse: over- or underinflation?

Rapsard replies that “both over and under tire inflation have consequences. Under pressure can damage the tire and over pressure can stress the wheels and landing gears. Underinflation creates faster tread wear on the shoulders and increases the stress and flex resulting in excessive heating in the tire that can lead to tire failure.”

When asked which factors have the greatest influence on the service life of aircraft tire, he says, “Tire maintenance first and weather and taxi speeds next. High taxi speeds and especially high speed turns can really stress and wear the tires.”

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