Mike Martin

Michelin launched a campaign at the show yesterday to convince the industry to switch to radial tyres for aircraft.

Claiming they are five times safer than bias tyres, the company aims to pull together major players and regulatory authorities to pursue the campaign.

Although Boeing and Airbus now fit radial tyres to new aircraft, the global take-up of radials is only 15%.

"The future will be radial, we all knew that," says Pierre Desmarets, head of Michelin aviation products. "We now have to radialise the past. "We have launched contacts with regulatory authorities of several countries as well as the major airframers to study together what can be done to change things."

The move by Michelin follows last year's Concorde crash in which an investigation appeared to show that the crash resulted from a tyre carcass penetrating the port wing fuel tank and causing a fire.

Edouard Michelin, president of the group, which has developed a new tyre specifically for Concorde, declined to comment on whether a different type of tyre would have made a difference. "Only 15% of the world aircraft are radialised. We are convinced this situation must evolve and that Michelin can help in speeding up the process."

He says he intends to report back on progress in the campaign at the next Farnborough show.

Desmarets says that the process of industry certification and its sense of caution often means that change is slow. Although the purchase cost of radials is higher than bias tyres, the total maintenance cost makes them a better bet in the long term. "The total maintenance cost for the airline is lower when one chooses to use radial tyres: less weight, generating gains in fuel consumption, less frequent wheel changes due to longer tread wear, all of which more than compensates for the radial¹s higher cost."

Competitor Goodyear takes a more bullish view of the trend towards radial tyres for aircraft. It is investing $10 million in expanding production at its Danville, USA plant.

Source: Flight Daily News