I just watched the first episode of Inside Mighty Machine where civil engineer-turned-host, Chad Zdenek, discussed innovations of the 747. One innovation he discussed was the increased number of wheels and trucks, along with this tidbit:
When the 747 touches down, the wheels must accelerate from 0 to 150 mph in a heartbeat, making them skid before they start to spin. That's why they smoke on touchdown. That friction causes heat to build inside the wheel, creating the risk of an explosion, so the 747's tires are filled with nitrogen, an inert gas which, unlike oxygen, won't aid combustion. That helps protect the plane from blowouts and keep landings safe.
That seems like an oversimplification and backhandedly suggests that the alternative is to fill the tires with pure oxygen—a surefire recipe for combustion I would think.
So, (1) is nitrogen really "the thin line" between safe landings and blowouts on modern commercial airliners and (2) is nitrogen landing gear inflation a legitimate innovation of the 747?