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Tyres burst - not just fail - remarkably often. The Aviation Herald lists 26 tyre-related incidents this year.

I'd expect fast landings or overweight landings and heavy braking to be implicated, but often, tyres burst during the take-off roll:

Some other failures also appear very regularly (cabin pressurisation, flaps, landing gear). However, these are of complex systems that have many interacting parts, and they also exhibit multiple ways of failing.

Car tyres, which are maintained much less well than aircraft tyres and travel far greater distances over much harsher surfaces, very rarely burst, even when they fail.

Why do the tyres of these large aeroplanes burst rather than fail in other ways? What is it about the way that aircraft tyres are made, or the conditions that they are subjected to, that cause them to burst as often as they do?

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    $\begingroup$ When you say "so often," that seems to perhaps lack context. If things from Kiev to Kingston are being considered, that's probably on the order of 26 occurrences out of several million flights. Which perhaps isn't quite as often as it first seems. $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Jun 9 '19 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ It's as often as it is, which is what I am asking about... $\endgroup$ – Daniele Procida Jun 10 '19 at 7:11
  • $\begingroup$ Car tire likely blow out more often but the consequences are not newsworthy ( except to the driver) . $\endgroup$ – blacksmith37 Jun 10 '19 at 21:14
  • $\begingroup$ @blacksmith37 Car tyres almost never burst. They deflate, lose pressure, become unseated, wear out, delaminate; are torn, punctured, cut, shredded. I have not once heard of a car tyre bursting. $\endgroup$ – Daniele Procida Jun 10 '19 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ @DanieleProcida in everyday usage, sure, they don't burst very often. But then inner-city driving is much kinder to tyres than what plane tyres go through on take-off/landing. You'll see a couple of tyres blow up over the course of a typical F1 season, though. $\endgroup$ – Chris H Jun 11 '19 at 12:09
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Car tires aren't really comparable.

Car tires:

  • make a lot of miles, but in mostly benign circumstances. Low speeds mean little heating (and slow changes in temperature).
  • failures are often caused by debris in the road rather than structural failure of the tire itself. (Although on trucks, structural failure is more common)
  • must be replaced when the tire profile reaches a minimum depth, which means you can't keep using the tire until structural failure happens.
  • are generally thrown away when the profile reaches minimum depth, because car tires are cheap enough that retreading is not necessary

Airplane tires:

  • rapidly go through temperature cycles (in-flight: -50 ºC, and on touchdown they rapidly heat up to several hundred ºC)
  • are kept at much higher pressures (13 bar versus 2 bar for car tires), so if there's a failure it's more likely to be catastrophic.
  • need to run at high speeds (300 km/h and more)
  • carry a lot of weight (up to 38 tons, vs. 500 kg for a car tire and 5 tons for a truck tire), which explains why they need such high pressures.
  • have to be lightweight
  • are often refurbished
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks, that point about pressures explains a great deal. $\endgroup$ – Daniele Procida Jun 10 '19 at 8:27
  • $\begingroup$ You missed "cope with extremely high changes in speed at touchdown" $\endgroup$ – DJClayworth Jun 10 '19 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ that's mostly covered by 'rapid temperature cycles', as the acceleration in itself won't damage the tire. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Jun 10 '19 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Hobbes, it's not just the temperature, but also the scrubbing as the non-rotating wheel suddenly touches the concrete moving about 300 km/h. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Jun 10 '19 at 19:38
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It really isn't that common in the big scheme of things, but there may be a factor that makes them more common than they might otherwise be. A lot of airlines retread their tires because they go through them so fast (try the life of a tire, going from 0 to 140 in half a second, then having to deal with producing extreme braking friction, 6 times a day, and see how long you last lol).

You can recap airline tires indefinitley as long as the basic carcass is within certain serviceability limits. An airline will send their worn tires to Goodyear or Michelin to have them basically remanufactured and they are theoretically as good as a new one, but in reality probably not quite (but good enough).

If an airline uses new tires all the time, they might expect to have fewer tire disintegrations, but the costs would be astronomical and I would say the majority of operators recap them until the carcass has to be scrapped.

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  • $\begingroup$ Please don't reference comments in an answer. Comments are prone to being removed making this answer confusing. Your answer should stand alone. $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Jun 10 '19 at 8:16

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