Performing Under Pressure

Have you taken a good look at your tires lately?

Aircraft tires often don't get the attention they deserve. They can be tough to inspect during preflight, especially if well concealed by wheelpants. Because they hold relatively low volumes of air compared with automotive tires, they are more prone to changes in pressure brought on by temperature changes in the ambient air. That's less of a problem in summer, when the pressure will tend to rise, as opposed to the first cold days of fall when tires are likely to flatten as the mercury drops significantly. But even in summer, it pays to take a good look before flight. Low tire pressure can significantly decrease takeoff performance on a hot day when you can least afford a longer takeoff roll. And you really don't need mushy tires on landing. When you're having that close encounter with your tires, you might as well inspect the sidewalls for cracking and dry rot. With low utilization, many of our airplanes will need to replace tires due to degraded sidewalls long before the tread wears thin. Another tip: a $25 cigarette lighter-powered mini-compressor from an automotive supply store can make replenishing the air in your tires a lot easier. It sure beats tracking down an air bottle from the shop or trying to taxi close enough to the air hose.