LoPresti set to roll out unpressurised tyres

Washington DC
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Florida-based LoPresti Aviation Engineering said it is working with Cessna and at least one other business jet airframer to roll out a new line of aircraft-specific banded tyres that do not require any inflation.

A modern take on a concept that emerged in design studies for NASA's lunar lander, the tyres contain a graphite epoxy composite hoop that is stiff laterally and has the elasticity of an inflated steel belted tyre in vertical direction.

RJ Siegel, LoPresti chief executive and former Apple Computer executive, said the company is likely to introduce its NeverFlat Lifesaver tyre for business aviation aircraft in the first quarter of 2012.

The company first commercialised the design about five years ago for military Humvee ground vehicles in Afghanistan, but composite technologies were not available at the time to cope with the impact and high acceleration environment of an aircraft tyre.

That changed over the past year with advances in carbon monofilament techniques, said Siegel.

The project also took on new urgency after the US National Transportation Safety Board determined that a fatal Bombardier Learjet 60 crash in Columbia, South Carolina, in 2008 was precipitated by under-inflated tyres.

LoPresti earlier this month unveiled its first aviation composite tyre as an option for the Cirrus SR20 and SR22, and was quickly overwhelmed with orders - and inquiries from airframers, said Seigel.

The company expects to earn technical standard order approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration for the tyres late this year.