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AEROSPACE AIR5800
INFORMATION
Issued 2009-10
REPORT

Tire Prerotation at Landing

RATIONALE

The idea of tire prerotation at landing to reduce tire wear and spin-up loads has been proposed many times in the past,
and continues to be proposed for new airplane projects. Yet, this practice has not been adopted in the aircraft industry.
This report explains why this is generally not a feasible idea, and also discusses situations where it may be beneficial.
This report is a compilation of all of the information available to SAE A-5, and comprises the general consensus from the
aircraft and landing gear industry on this subject.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. SCOPE .......................................................................................................................................................... 2
1.1 Purpose ......................................................................................................................................................... 2
2. APPLICABLE DOCUMENTS ........................................................................................................................ 2
2.1 SAE Publications........................................................................................................................................... 2
2.2 Other Publications ......................................................................................................................................... 2
3. BACKGROUND ............................................................................................................................................ 2
4. SUMMARY OF ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES............................................................................ 3
5. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS ................................................................................................................... 3
5.1 Electric or Hydraulic Motors .......................................................................................................................... 3
5.2 Specialty Tire Considerations ....................................................................................................................... 4
5.3 Effects on Brake Performance ...................................................................................................................... 4
5.4 Interaction with On-Ground Indication Systems ........................................................................................... 5
5.5 Noise and Vibrations ..................................................................................................................................... 5
5.6 Certification and Testing ............................................................................................................................... 5
5.7 Other considerations ..................................................................................................................................... 5
6. EFFECTS OF PREROTATION ON TIRE WEAR ......................................................................................... 5
7. EFFECTS OF PREROTATION ON STRUCTURAL LOADING ................................................................... 6
7.1 Effect of Landing Loads on Aircraft Structure ............................................................................................... 6
7.2 Achieving Tire Rolling Speed ........................................................................................................................ 6
7.3 Effect of Failure Modes on Structural Loads Requirements ......................................................................... 6
8. CONCLUSIONS ............................................................................................................................................ 7
9. NOTE ............................................................................................................................................................ 7

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
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1. SCOPE

This SAE Aerospace Information Report (AIR) applies to landing gear tires and airframe structure for all types and models
of civil and military aircraft having tires as part of the landing gear.

1.1 Purpose

This report describes the advantages and disadvantages of prerotating tires prior to landing, and explains why this
practice is not generally adopted. Two potential benefits of this practice are considered: 1) Tire wear and 2) Spin-up
loads on the landing gear and aircraft structure.

2. APPLICABLE DOCUMENTS

The following publications form a part of this document to the extent specified herein. The latest issue of SAE
publications shall apply. The applicable issue of other publications shall be the issue in effect on the date of the purchase
order. In the event of conflict between the text of this document and references cited herein, the text of this document
takes precedence. Nothing in this document, however, supersedes applicable laws and regulations unless a specific
exemption has been obtained.

2.1 SAE Publications

Available from SAE International, 400 Commonwealth Drive, Warrendale, PA 15096-0001, Tel: 877-606-7323 (inside
USA and Canada) or 724-776-4970 (outside USA), www.sae.org

SAE Journal, Volume 52, No. 10, "Prerotation of Landing Gear Wheels", by H.F. Schippel, 10/44.

SAE Paper No. 881360, “Spin-Up Studies of the Space Shuttle Orbiter Main Gear Tire”, Robert H. Daugherty and Sandy
M. Stubbs, MASA Langley Research Center, 10/88.

ARP1070 Design and Testing of Antiskid Brake Control Systems for Total Aircraft Compatibility

2.2 Other Publications

AIAA 90-3272, “A Theoretical and Experimental Investigation into the Pre-rotation of Aircraft Tires”, I. Sobieski, 9/90.

NASA Technical Paper #2009, "Tire Tread Temperatures During Antiskid Braking and Cornering on a Dry Runway",
Tanner, Dreher, Stubbs and Smith, 5/82.

NASA CCB III, 12-16-86, UCN: 11902, PCIN: S60035, CAT: CAT II, SCH: E, “MLG Wheel Spin-up”, by W. E. Lemen .

“Pre-rotation of Wheels Prior to Landing”, Royal Air Force Cosford, 1/99.

AFRL-VA-WP-TR-1999-3088, “The Extended Life Tire Program”, Shea, Taxman, and Macy, The Boeing Company, 12/99.

NACA TN 3250, “An Experimental Investigation of the Effects of Wheel Prerotation of Landing Gear Drag Loads”, 10/54.

US Patent Numbers: 2,464,872; 4,040,582; 2,408,963; 2,397,319; 4,205,812; 2,333,447; and 5,104,063

3. BACKGROUND

The idea of prerotating tires at landing has been proposed, and patented, many times in the past. The idea is often
proposed during the development of new airplane models with the goal to reduce tire wear and/or to reduce design loads
resulting from tire spin-up. This is understandable since it is clear that if tires could be made to spin prior to landing at or
near the rolling rate corresponding to ground speed, tire wear could be reduced, and spin-up drag loads could be
potentially eliminated or greatly reduced.
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In 1988, studies of this practice for the Space Shuttle Orbiter demonstrated that tire wear could be reduced by about 50%
if the tires were pre-spun to only 10% of synchronous speed. (The Space Shuttle is a special case from the standpoint of
the high landing speed, the high torque required to begin spinning the tires, and the high vertical loads experienced at
landing). These studies suggested that this practice may have benefits for commercial airplanes to reduce tire wear,
dynamic landing loads, and runway contamination. After further study, NASA rejected tire prerotation for the Orbiter. The
problem was addressed by changes to the tire tread material and design, and by changes to the runway surface at
Kennedy Space Center.

In 1999, the Royal Air Force investigated the use of prerotation for the Tornado fighter, and concluded that prerotation by
means of specially modified tires held promise of improved tire life and reduced landing loads, and recommended further
testing. After their investigation was completed, tire prerotation was not adopted.

The only known application of tire prerotation is on several Cessna airplane models designed to operate on gravel
runways. This practice minimizes debris spray.

The patents cover a range of devices to accomplish prerotation, from angled tread patterns, sidewall vanes, lugs,
pockets, flaps etc., to electrical / hydraulic motors to exactly match the touch down speed. In practice however, these
ideas have not been adopted. This report explains the reasons why tire prerotation is generally not practical.

4. SUMMARY OF ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES

Following is a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of rotating the tires prior to landing. These will be further
discussed in the following Sections.

Advantages:

• Reduces tire wear


• Potential to reduce touchdown loads
• Reduces debris spray on gravel runways

Disadvantages:

• Does not reduce tire wear significantly for most airplanes


• Not a reliable means to reduce landing loads, (and may even increase loads)
• If employed, motors add weight, cost, complexity
• Reliability expected to be an issue
• Failure mode requirements minimize potential loads benefits
• Additional maintenance
• If employed, special tires require more testing and spares (left and right tires)
• Causes noise and vibration at landing approach
• Adversely affects on-ground indication systems using wheel spin-up signals upon landing

5. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS

The two main benefits for tire prerotation are reduced tire wear and lower structural weight on the airframe resulting from
reduced fatigue and ultimate design landing loads. These two topics are discussed specifically in Sections 6 and 7,
respectively. This section discusses several other related issues which are common to both tire wear and loading
considerations.

5.1 Electric or Hydraulic Motors

Studies have shown that electric or hydraulic motors have significant issues, making them generally not feasible for use in
this application. The main issues are weight, cost, power limitations, system complexity and failure modes, maintenance,
and reliability. The weight alone is generally higher than the weight savings from reduced spin-up loads.
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5.2 Specialty Tire Considerations

It was concluded by the RAF study that prerotation by means of aerodynamic flow over specially equipped tires was the
most promising approach. Vanes, or cups, would be added to the tire sidewall, thus optimizing the mechanical
advantage, and placing the vanes well into the airstream. (Vanes mounted on the wheels do not have sufficient moment
arm, have clearance issues, and aerodynamic flow is not as clean).

However, trials undertaken show that slipstream prerotation is unreliable to achieve full touchdown rotation speeds due to
a number of factors:

• The size and type of tire vanes or cups limits the amount of applied torque to the wheel assembly
• Wheel bearing friction resists rotation
• Turbulence
• The fact that air speed is not the same as ground speed due to altitude and temperature effects
• Aerodynamic interference with the aircraft (e.g. the wind speed at the top of the tire, nearer the wing, may be faster than
at the bottom, such that the tires can actually spin backwards).
• Difficulties in achieving equal tire speeds on gears with more than two wheels in a truck beam arrangement since the aft
pair of tires is sheltered by the forward tires.

AIAA Report 90-3272, which investigated the effectiveness of tire cups on the Space Shuttle tire, concluded that only 5 to
10% of touchdown speed could reasonably be expected from the airstream. A Boeing 727 flight test in the 1970s was
only able to achieve about 40 knots equivalent ground speed (~25%). As a result, some spin-up will still occur, so wear
and drag load reduction is minimal. In some cases, slower tire speeds at touchdown can actually cause higher spin-up
loads (see Section 7).

Additional maintenance will be incurred by using uniquely modified tires. There will need to be both left and right-handed
spares, which is an increased cost to the operator, as well as increased production and testing cost to the tire
manufacturer. It also means ground operation personnel will require additional training to ensure the tires are mounted
properly. If the tires are mounted in reverse, the tires would actually spin backwards, causing even more tire wear and
higher spin-up loads.

Also, the vanes are subject to foreign object damage (or failure by other means), making the prerotation less effective
over time, and could even cause more frequent tire replacement, defeating the original purpose. A related issue was
discovered during the Boeing 727 flight testing. At high takeoff speeds, the tire vanes began to break loose, and some
were ingested in the engines, causing engine damage. The test was cancelled after this, and the idea was dropped.

Wheel well clearance may be impacted, as it is often very limited. These types of tires would also produce more vibration
due to tire imbalance prior to touchdown as the vanes incur wear or damage.

Finally, the added weight for tire vanes is approximately the same as would be required for additional tread to achieve the
same tire life, but without the complications noted above.

5.3 Effects on Brake Performance

It has been suggested that spin-up drag load offsets the work brakes are required to perform during stopping. If tires are
pre-spun, brakes will have to compensate, resulting in slightly more brake wear and stopping distance. In general, this is
not a significant factor since the energy required to spin the tires is less than 1% of the brake energy required to stop the
airplane. A more important factor is the impact on the brake control system (see Section 5.4).
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5.4 Interaction with On-Ground Indication Systems

Depending on the type of device or system used to prerotate tires, there may be complications arising from interaction
with other systems. Examples are the antiskid system, the auto-speedbrake system, and other systems requiring rapid
on-ground sensing. These systems often use wheel speed to trigger on-ground indication. Tire prerotation would require
that such systems be modified to use other means to indicate ground contact. This would result in a significant impact to
the system design, and would probably prevent prerotation from being feasible for retrofit applications. Wheel speed
indication is very rapid, which is important for brake performance. Apart from truck pitch rotation on airplanes so
equipped, wheel speed is the most rapid indication of ground contact. All other known measurements, such as weight-
on-wheels or strut compression, are slower, and would result in a degradation in brake performance. This is a more
important factor than tire wear, and would probably be a sufficient reason to reject prerotation even without considering
the other disadvantages.

It is noted that one advantage of only partially spinning the tires to about 10% of landing speed is that this is below typical
wheel spin-up indication speeds processed by the antiskid system, thereby minimizing the impact to these systems.

5.5 Noise and Vibrations

If the tires are pre-spun, tire imbalance prior to touchdown will cause noticeable vibration and additional noise. Noise is a
very important factor at airports, and any increase in noise resulting from pre-spun tires must be accounted for in the
overall decision to incorporate prerotation in the design. Passenger noise and ride comfort is also a potential issue due to
the vibration transmitted to the cabin. These considerations may result in more stringent tire balancing requirements,
(although this adds additional maintenance burden, and is not always effective).

It has been suggested that, without prerotation, tires tend to land with the heavy side down, so spin-up wear may act to
balance the tires. Tire prerotation would eliminate this natural self-correcting balancing tendency. This is probably not a
significant factor since wheel bearing friction and airstream forces make it difficult to predict the location of the heavy side
of the tire at landing.

The specific system used for prerotation may affect shimmy stability. The inboard and outboard tires may touchdown at
different speeds, causing a transient yaw moment to be applied to the gear. The shimmy analysis and testing must take
this into account.

5.6 Certification and Testing

If a tire prerotation system is employed, additional certification compliance and testing will be required. This includes tire
manufacturer qualification testing (if modified tires are used), as well as additional airplane flight testing. The impact to
TSO testing would need to be defined. Failure modes must be investigated to ensure the aircraft level functional hazard
requirements are respected. And the effects of system failure modes on structural requirements must be added to the
certification basis.

5.7 Other considerations

Another factor to consider is airplane handling and control. If the tires are pre-spun at different speeds, which is likely if
the airstream is used to rotate the tires, then the airplane could have a tendency to veer to one side.

6. EFFECTS OF PREROTATION ON TIRE WEAR

It is acknowledged that tire spin-up is a very aggressive wear phenomena, but the very short time period over which it
occurs, results in only a small percentage of the overall tire wear. It is estimated that between 5 to 10% of total tire wear
result from spin-up in normal operation. Normal braking continues all through the stopping cycle with the antiskid system
controlling the brake pressure to just below the point where the tire starts to skid. The runway surface abrades the tire
tread during this phase. Also, tire scrubbing during taxiing and turning contribute significantly to tire wear.
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Exceptions to this would be aircraft with unusually high landing speeds where tire wear at landing could represent a much
higher percentage of the tire life. For these types of aircraft, even if only 10% of the rolling speed is achieved for
prerotation, tire wear can be reduced significantly. (In the case of the Space Shuttle, the tires are replaced after each
landing, so tire wear is not an issue as long as the tire has enough tread to sustain one landing safely). Military aircraft
with high landing design sink rates may also exhibit a higher degree of tire wear at landing. Although these types of
aircraft may benefit from tire prerotation, no aircraft in these categories have adopted the practice due to the issues raised
in this report.

The most efficient and balanced solution to tire spin-up wear is to optimize the characteristics of the tire tread material
and supporting structure. The extra tire weight is generally less than any system or device to pre-spin tires, and there are
no additional complications such as increased testing, system failure modes, or increased maintenance. Another benefit
is that any additional tire tread weight is only temporary since it is worn off over time.

7. EFFECTS OF PREROTATION ON STRUCTURAL LOADING

7.1 Effect of Landing Loads on Aircraft Structure

If tire prerotation can reliably match ground speed, it could significantly reduce spin-up loads at touchdown. The drag
force on the tire during spin-up is the product of the tire-to-ground friction coefficient and the tire vertical ground reaction.
The friction coefficient is a function of the relative velocity between the bottom of the tire and the ground. After initial
touchdown, the friction coefficient increases as the tire gains rotational speed, and peaks at about 90% of full rolling
speed.

Spin-up loads at landing impact the strength and fatigue requirements of the landing gear and portions of the airframe,
such as gear support structure, fuselage semi-monocoque structure, floor beams, equipment and their supporting
structure, wing box structure, nacelle struts, and auxiliary power unit support structure. The extent to which landing loads
affect the design of the airplane structure depends on the configuration of the airplane and landing gear.

In general, for commercial aircraft, landing loads at design sink rate do not affect the landing gear significantly. Other
design conditions, such as turning, taxi over bumps, braking, pivoting, and towing are responsible for sizing most
components of the landing gear. Similarly, for airframe structure, landing loads generally do not size very much structure
in terms of weight. Thus, any reduction in spin-up loads due to tire prerotation will not result in significant weight savings.

7.2 Achieving Tire Rolling Speed

To reduce spin-up loads significantly, tire prerotation speed must closely match ground speed. This is difficult to achieve
as ground speed is different from indicated air speed due to field elevation, ambient temperature, and head or tail winds.
The peak friction coefficient occurs when the tires are almost at rolling speed, so if the speed is not closely matched,
there will still be a significant spin-up load, limiting the amount of weight savings possible with these devices. Dynamic
landing loads analyses have shown that partial prerotation rates may even result in higher spin-up loads than without
prerotation because the tires take less time to reach rolling speed. The resulting peak drag load, though lower in
magnitude because of lower vertical loading, occurs with the shock strut in a more extended position, increasing the
moment arm of the drag load relative to the gear support structure.

Prerotation by means of tire modifications have shown that only about 10 to 25% of the airspeed can be achieved. While
this might be sufficient to significantly reduce Space Shuttle tire wear, it would not be sufficient to reduce spin-up loads.
Thus tire modifications would not be feasible for spin-up load alleviation.

7.3 Effect of Failure Modes on Structural Loads Requirements

Any mechanical, electrical, or hydraulic system used to pre-spin tires will be subject to failure modes. The current
regulations for FAA CFR Part 25 airplanes require that the effects of system failures on structure must be accounted for.
These regulations are in the form of FAA Issue Papers or EASA Critical Review Items (CRIs). The latest amendment of
the EASA CS (Certification Specifications) covers this under paragraph 25.302 and Appendix K. These regulations
stipulate that the loads arising from either the failure itself at the time of occurrence, or the effects of the failure during the
continuation of the flight subsequent to the failure, must be accounted for with the appropriate safety factor. The safety
factor increases as the probability of the failure increases. Hence high system reliability is very important.
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In addition, the regulation states that if the system is allowed to be dispatched inoperable, the safety factor is 1.5. Thus, if
full credit for reducing landing loads is to be achieved, then this system would be required to be fully functional at
dispatch. This may not be desirable, depending on the system reliability.

In summary, if a system is employed for prerotation, failure modes must be considered in the determination of ultimate
landing loads. These regulations may result in significant design loads on the aircraft, negating some or all of the benefits
of the prerotation. Therefore, the system will have to be required at dispatch, with a sufficient reliability to result in a
safety factor of approximately 1.0 to maximize the benefit.

8. CONCLUSIONS

The idea of prerotating tires to reduce tire wear and/or spin-up loads has been proposed periodically for many years, and
it has yet to be used by aircraft manufacturers. This is because the added weight, cost, complexity, and additional testing
and maintenance of tire prerotation systems outweigh the benefits to tire wear and reduced spin-up loads. This is also
the conclusion reached by Norman S. Currey in his “Landing Gear Design Handbook”.

Prerotation generally does not significantly reduce tire wear because only a small percentage of tire wear results from
spin-up at landing. Tire tread rubber is the most effective means to maximize tire wear life.

In addition, tire prerotation does not effectively reduce spin-up loads unless ground speed can be closely matched Even
then, failure mode requirements would eliminate some or all of the loads reductions. Since landing loads do not add
significant weight to the landing gear or airframe, tire prerotation is generally not effective considering the added weight,
cost, and maintenance.

There may be solutions to many of the issues associated with tire prerotation, but in the end, the main reason tire
prerotation is not practical on most aircraft is that it is simply not effective in reducing either tire wear or landing loads, and
would create more problems than it would solve.

There may be applications where this conclusion does not apply, such as for airplanes operating on gravel runways, or for
airplanes that land at extremely high speeds incurring a higher percentage of tire wear at landing.

If a system is developed in the future which has low weight, can accurately match ground speed, is easily maintained, and
is highly reliable, then such a system could be beneficial to more airplane models. In any case, whenever tire prerotation
is considered for any reason, a thorough business case should be conducted, including all of the considerations
discussed in this report.

9. NOTE

A change bar (|) located in the left margin is for the convenience of the user in locating areas where technical revisions,
not editorial changes, have been made to the previous issue of this document. An (R) symbol to the left of the document
title indicates a complete revision of the document, including technical revisions. Change bars and (R) are not used in
original publications, nor in documents that contain editorial changes only.

PREPARED BY THE A-5C AIRCRAFT TIRES SUBCOMMITTEE OF


THE A-5 AEROSPACE LANDING GEAR SYSTEMS