Flying magazine for pilots flying airplanes and helicopters in the Southwest
SW Aviator Magazine Aviation Magazine - Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah
General aviation flight magazine
current past airport classified events links contact
SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
SW Aviator Magazine is available in print free at FBOs and aviation-related businesses throughout the Southwest or by subscription.
- - - - - -
Airshows, Fly-ins, Seminars
2001 Aviation Events Calendar
The web's most comprehensive database of Southwest area aviation events.
- - - - - -
Site of the Minute
Featured Site:
A continuosly changing collection of links to our favorite aviation related web sites.
- - - - - -
Used Aircraft For Sale
- - - - - -

Are tires really better the second time around?

By Michael Magnell

Way back in 1976 when I was a young new-hire pilot for Western Airlines, a major air carrier based in Los Angeles, part of our indoctrination was a tour of Western’s maintenance facilities. For me, it was the wheel and brake shop that left an indelible impression.

On the tour I learned from the loquacious shop foreman that Western did not buy tires for its airliners, instead they leased them. This unexpected statement got my attention, so I listened intently as this gentlemen went on to explain Western’s philosophy towards utilization of tires on its fleet of big heavy airliners, consisting of DC10s, B727s, and B737s. I learned that Western only dealt with Goodyear, as they considered them to be by far the best aircraft tire in the industry. Western paid Goodyear a set amount per landing, and when the tires were at the end of their useful tread life Western would send them back to Goodyear. (Now read carefully, because this next statement almost caused me to keel over.) Once Goodyear received the used tires, they would determine if they were suitable for recapping. That’s right -- recaps!

I gasped at the thought of flying airliners with recapped tires, as I wouldn’t put those egregious things on my car, much less a heavy airplane. Immediately my hand went up with a question for this so-called pundit of aviation tires. "Just how well do these tires hold up after they had been recapped?" I asked. "Excellent" was the answer. In fact, I learned that Western’s empirical experience showed the recaps gave more reliable and better service than a first run tire. In other words, when a tire did cause a problem -- and that was a rare occurrence -- it was more likely to be a first run tire. Some of these tires held up so well that they were actually recapped seventeen or eighteen times before their life span was over! I was absolutely amazed.
As my career progressed through the ten and a half years I flew with Western (until the Airline was purchased by Delta), I became a believer in the airline’s tire philosophy. I noticed the company had no major problems to speak of with their aircraft tires during my tenure. In contrast, another airline across the field about the same size as Western had an entirely different philosophy in this area, with entirely different results. Continental Airlines would go bargain shopping whenever it needed tires for its fleet of DC10s, B727s and DC9s. This resulted in a mixture of different brands of tires on its airliners at any given time. And as the saying goes, and as Continental found out, not all aviation tires are created equal! One day a very heavily loaded Continental DC10 was departing LAX for Hawaii when one of these bargain tires let go. This caused more stress on the remaining tires, and before long other tires failed. When the Captain aborted the takeoff this caused all of the tires to fail, and a heavy jet will not stop well with the wheel rims scrapping the pavement instead of rubber. Unfortunately, the DC10 wound up off the departure end of the runway and was a total loss. It was determined that the mixture of different brands of tires on this plane, with different load carrying capabilities, produced unequal amounts of stress being applied among the tires, thereby causing tire failure.

You may wonder where I am going with all of this wonderful knowledge about airline tires. Well, the time had come for me to replace the tires on my $250K F33A Bonanza, which is a sizeable investment for me. I started asking folks around my home airport whether or not it was a good idea to go with recaps, which touched off a big debate. Judging from what I heard, it looks like general aviation hasn’t entirely bought into the idea of using recapped tires as a smart move. The general consensus was that recaps might be okay on light small training aircraft, but definitely not on a retractable gear plane.

I, however, was suspect of the veracity of the stuff I was hearing from my compatriots at the airport, so I talked to the folks at Desser Tire about their recaps. In addition to recapping general aviation tires, Desser does recaps for many of the Regional Airlines. Just under 50 percent of the Regionals use recaps, while most of the big airlines (about 90 percent) now use recaps. (The tire manufacturers themselves still handle the recapping for the big airlines, because there is a lot of money in it.) Desser told me the procedure for recapping tires for big airliners, regional jets, and small aircraft is exactly the same. To ensure quality, they laser x-ray all of their casings before recapping, to make sure it is a perfectly good casing. You can even specify a desired type of casing, such as Goodyear, when purchasing recapped aviation tires.

After thinking long and hard about the matter, and having the assurances by the recap manufacture that their recaps indeed hold up better than a new tire (where have I heard this before?), I decided that what works for the major airlines will probably work for my Bonanza. I decided to give the recaps a try on my sizeable investment. I have had the recaps on for several flights now and they are working out great so far.

Is this scientific evidence that recaps are a good choice for general aviation? Of course not. Will this silence the naysayers back at my home airport? I doubt it. Nevertheless, for my money, I think I made the right choice.

Michael Magnell is a retired Delta Airlines Captain with over 12,000 total flight hours. He acquired his F33A Bonanza in Germany, which he then piloted across the Atlantic to his home in Southern California.
Click here to return to the beginning of this article.
The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publications and the staff neither assume any responsibility for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising fom it
SW Aviator Magazine • 3909 Central NE • Albuquerque, NM 87108
Phone: 505.256.7031 • Fax: 505.256.3172 • e-mail:
©2001 Southwest Regional Publishing, Inc.