Consider the following scenario: A crew experiences a flat/burst tyre above V1.

Is it possible, in some type of aircraft, to change it while in flight?

This might include, but not limited to:

  • access the landing gear compartment
  • access hydraulic operated equipment
  • changing the damaged tyre
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    $\begingroup$ That would be an exciting James Bond move. $\endgroup$ – kevin Feb 22 '16 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ Are you assuming that the crew are trained and certified, that spare wheels are carried (you can't just change the tyre), that they have the necessary tools, test equipment and lifting gear in the landing gear bay and that the bay is pressurised and conditioned? Are you also assuming that all of this would be safer than just carrying a burst tyre to your landing? $\endgroup$ – Simon Feb 22 '16 at 16:57
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    $\begingroup$ See also the Keys brothers endurance flight which involved routine engine maintenance while in flight. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Feb 22 '16 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ I am just asking, not assuming, it is my doubt, only Jonathan Walters. $\endgroup$ – eduardoguilherme Feb 22 '16 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ There was a time repairing an engine in flight was critically required (read Saint Exupéry). So the question is an opportunity for good answers. $\endgroup$ – mins Feb 22 '16 at 18:01

Accessing hydraulic lines & resevoirs is perfectly straightforward in plenty of aircraft -- the C-130 as one example. With crew chiefs & their tools & spare parts on board, a temp repair on a hydraulic line would be possible. Highly unusual, but possible. Spare fluid is common enough to have on-board to replenish the resevoirs.

However, access to the tires... Nope. I can't think of anything where you could do that, and it would have to be a designed-in capability. Typically, crew-accessible areas are pressurized, but where the wheels retract, aren't. You have things like access to unpressurized bomb bays, and in unpressurized aircraft that's not a barrier, but still... If there are designs where the crew can access the tires in flight, I'm not picturing them.

As noted elsewhere, landing with a flat tire isn't typically a big deal.


Normally the answer would be no, but if you have

  • an airplane with a low minimum speed and plenty of gas,
  • a fast pickup truck,
  • a very, very long runway and
  • calm weather,

you can have someone get the needed tools, the spare wheel and have him climb on the back of a pickup truck. What follows will look like this:

Stuck landing gear on a PA-28 being freed from the ground

Stuck landing gear on a PA-28 being freed from the ground (picture source)

This repair needed only a jerk on the gear to get it unstuck. Changing a wheel takes much longer and is practically impossible this way.

  • $\begingroup$ If perfectly executed, one could probably change a tire like that in about 5-6 passes. Getting the cotter pin out would be the hardest part; I wouldn't worry about re-installing it until after the excitement died down. And hopefully the brake backing plates haven't any safety wire. Nose wheel might be easier. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Feb 22 '16 at 17:15
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    $\begingroup$ Changing a light aircraft tire from a moving truck would be a risky proposition, and not worth it since landing with a flat is not a particularly hazardous thing. A wrong move could end up with the person in the back of the truck getting chopped into pieces for no particularly good reason. $\endgroup$ – GdD Feb 22 '16 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ Is it just me, or does this seem irresponsibly dangerous? I would think the risk to lives would be much greater than landing with the one wheel up. $\endgroup$ – Fred Larson Feb 22 '16 at 19:27
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    $\begingroup$ I think the best course of action would have been to land with the undercarriage up @FredLarson, rather than two down. I agree that trying to extend the gear was a risk not worth taking. When I first saw that video as a kid I was impressed, knowing what I do now I think it's dumb. $\endgroup$ – GdD Feb 23 '16 at 9:43
  • $\begingroup$ I think getting the tire off would be easier than getting the new tire on @JonathanWalters, and if you can't get the tire on it's worse than a flat. Trying to change a nose wheel would take a person perilously close to the prop. $\endgroup$ – GdD Feb 23 '16 at 9:45

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