Ever wonder how often landing gear tires last? With the exception of seaplanes, most airplanes have multiple tires as part of their landing gear assemblies. The Boeing 777, for instance, features over a dozen tires. They are designed to absorb the shock of landings while subsequently protecting the body of the airplane from damage.
Landing gear tires don’t last forever, however. Just like automotive tires, they have a fixed lifespan. Repeated landings and will wear down the tread material, potentially compromising the tire’s integrity.
200 to 400 Landings
Most landing gear tires on commercial airplanes last for about 200 to 400 landings on average. Each landing will expose the tires to wear and tear. Landing gear tires are designed with grooves known as tread. When an airplane touches down on the runway, the tread will “grip” the asphalt or concrete to create traction.
The tread will gradually degrade over time. Most landing gear tires are made of conductive rubber. The friction and heat generated during landings will wear down the tread. Eventually, there won’t be enough tread to create strong traction. The landing gear tires may still be intact, but they’ll have a smooth surface that fails to create traction.
Factors That Affect the Lifespan of Landing Gear Tires
Several factors affect the lifespan of landing gear tires, one of which is the weight of the aircraft. The heavier the airplane, the faster its landing gear tires will wear down. The 777 has a maximum takeoff weight of over 700,000 pounds, so there’s a lot of pressure placed on its tires during landings.
The number of tires an airplane has will also play a role in their longevity. Small airplanes may only have three landing gear tires. Larger airplanes, on the other hand, may have over a dozen landing gear tires. With more tires, the weight of the airplane is distributed more evenly, which may promote a longer lifespan for the tires.
Retreading vs Replacing
Commercial airlines may not dispose of landing gear tires just because they are heavily worn. Rather, they will often retread the worn tires.
Retreading is the process of removing any leftover tread from a tire and replacing it with new tread. It extends the life of landing gear tires. Furthermore, it typically costs less to retread a worn tire than to replace it. After about 200 to 400 landings, commercial airlines may get their landing gear tires retreated so that they can continue using them.