Back in 1903, the Wright brothers made history with their first successful flight in a self-powered airplane at Kitty Hawk, N.C. In the years that followed, they made great progress in the air, but getting back on the ground remained challenging. Their sled-runner style of landing gear – not to mention rough landing fields – demanded a high degree of skill and precision.
That changed in 1909, when Goodyear introduced the first tire built for aviation use. The Goodyear Wing Aeroplane Tire was built by the company’s engineers to be light in weight, to resist punctures, and to be easy to remove. Goodyear is still providing innovative products for the skies as it celebrates the 100th anniversary of Goodyear Aviation.
“Nobody could have envisioned that Goodyear’s aviation business would last at least 100 years,” said Pierre Jambon, general manager, global aviation, “but we’ve prospered by doing the same things that we did at the beginning: develop innovative new products to fulfill the changing needs of the aviation industry.”
Goodyear’s aviation tires can claim many “firsts” in the industry. The company introduced the first re-treadable aircraft tire in 1927. The Goodyear Airwheel of 1928 was the first low pressure aviation tire, virtually eliminating the need for a wheel by mounting directly to the hub. In 1939, Goodyear moved into other areas of aeronautics, producing wheels, brakes, fuselages and other critical components for military aircraft. The Goodyear Aircraft Company was incorporated that year and was devoted entirely to this effort.
Eventually, the company developed the first successful autopilot for helicopters, during the Korean War, having already built many of the highly-successful Corsair aircraft of World War II.
Space then beckoned and, in 1971, American astronauts Alan Shepard and Ed Mitchell of the Apollo 14 moon mission were equipped with a rickshaw-like collecting cart to use on the lunar surface. That two-wheeled device came equipped with Goodyear tires. On the next mission, the first lunar rover vehicle featured metal-and-wire “tires” from Goodyear. Later that decade, the company’s experience was applied to business jets, such as those built by Lear, Gulfstream, Bombardier and Cessna. The move from propellers to jets required relatively small tires that could handle high speeds. The Flight Eagle tire – based on a tire built for high-speed military aircraft – became the product of choice, especially by the manufacturers already mentioned.
While “business” aircraft were getting smaller and faster, commercial airplanes were getting larger and being used for shipping freight in addition to passengers. In the 1970s, Goodyear began supplying tires to FedEx and Southwest Airlines. FedEx started by using repurposed business jets and shipping 36,000 packages per day. Now, the cargo-carrier handles 7.5 million shipments per day, largely on Goodyear tires. Meanwhile, Southwest began as a one-route, point-to-point airline in Texas, flying exclusively on Goodyear tires. Today, it is one of the most successful airlines in history and flies more than 100 million passengers per year to more than 60 cities across America. But one thing has remained the same; its entire fleet – now more than 500 aircraft – uses only Goodyear aviation tires.
For information: www.goodyearaviation.com/