Firestone, The Concorde and You

Granted, your plane’s no Concorde or SUV, but a bad set of tires will make every effort to do for you what it’s done for them. When was the last time that you took a look at the tires on your airplane? If you have to think about the answer, you had better start looking. A blowout can cause you to lose directional control.

Once you lose directional control, fate decides what or who you will run into before you stop.

BEST DEFENSE: A thorough pre-flight. Take a close look at your tires. If you can see worn spots, or cracks in the tread or sidewall that are so deep that the cords show, the tire is not serviceable. Caution: Just because you don’t see a blemish doesn’t mean that it’s not there. Airplanes have a habit of sitting on ‘bald spots’ – roll the aircraft to get a look at the *entire* tread. Flying with damaged tires is an invitation to a blowout on takeoff or landing. If the worst happens, here are some things you can do to cope…

Blown Tire on T/O Roll: If you have runway remaining, REDUCE POWER to flight idle, use your ailerons to lift the wing carrying the dead tire and apply rudder and brakes to maintain directional control. Bring the plane to a ‘controlled’ stop. If the runway is gone, try to pull the plane off the ground and into ground effect. Friction is a function of weight, so get the load off the tire. Once the tire is unloaded, you can build enough speed to get the plane into the air.

Landing With a Blown Tire: This is risky business. Inform ATC, and if possible, have fire equipment standing by. Hold the failed tire off the runway as long as you can, slowing the plane down as much as possible before you allow it to touch down. Once the bad tire comes in contact with the ground, be ready to use aggressive braking on the good tire and a leg-full of rudder to help maintain directional control.

KEYS TO SUCCESS: Use your airplane’s short field capabilities and maximize your use of ground effect. Use *all* the flying surfaces to maintain directional control. Remember, the blown tire will cause a great deal of drag. Finally, be ready for some more nasty surprises. If the tire is in really bad shape, it can throw off chunks of tread, destroy wheel pants and dent the underside of the wing as it comes up to speed. It may also lock and burn. Keep that in mind during your next pre-flight.