Avoiding ‘hot’ wheels

Teen designs device that could almost double the life of airplane tires

By Sid Perkins, 18:35 PM May 15, 2013

Phillipe Lothaller, a 17-year-old senior from Cape Town, South Africa, has invented a device that could save airlines big money by extending the life of tires. The metal device at left is an early mock-up of the design. A newer version (seen in white at center) has pop-up scoops instead of fixed ones. When retracted, the scoops don’t interfere with a plane’s protective wheel wells. Credit: Patrick Thornton, SSP

Nervous air travelers concerned about the risks of aging planes may first worry about how well the wings or engine are holding up. But a plane’s tires suffer a lot of wear and tear too. A new device that attaches to the wheel rims could extend the life of those tires, saving the world’s airlines millions of dollars per day.

When aircraft approach their destination, pilots extend the landing gear to prepare for touchdown. Before the plane lands, its tires aren’t spinning, notes Phillipe Lo...

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