Dear Tire Guy | June 2021
Blackbird singing in the dead of night. Take these silver tires and learn to fly. (Don't sue me Paul!) A typical operating range for a DOT-R tire is 180°F to 200°F with a hot pressure of 32-40 psi. Now what if I told you that was kid stuff? Yes, the world's toughest, hottest, fastest, silver-est tires are not on a sports car but instead on Lockheed's SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. Extreme speeds require extreme tires. Hoosiers may be bad boys on the track, but BFGoodrich owns the sky. Check this out.
The Blackbird holds the world speed record of 2,193 mph. Consequently it also gets insanely hot and heats up to temperatures of more than 1,000°F during flight. This is obviously too hot for your average tire, even a race tire. Under such heat any typical tire would melt or explode. I'm not a pilot, but I can imagine that exploding landing gear is probably not ideal. Especially if you want, you know, to land. BFGoodrich, though, had a solution for this.
The Hill Aerospace Museum has one of the SR-71's BFGoodrich tires on display. The first question you're likely to ask is, "Why is it silver?" And I'm likely to give you an answer that goes like this: "They are infused with powdered aluminum." The addition of aluminum to the tire significantly heightened its heat resistance and flashpoint. This was necessary given the friction they would undergo when landing at extreme speeds. Furthermore, these 22 ply tires were inflated to 425 psi, and were filled with nitrogen to lower the chances of that whole "exploding landing gear thing" I mentioned earlier; reducing the risk of fire by removing the presence of oxygen. These high tech tires cost $2,300 a piece (8 per plane) and had a general life of about 15 landings. Everything about he Blackbird was unique and though it was retired in 1997, it's technological advances, even down to its tires, stand out as engineering marvels to this day.
Would you like to buy one of these tires? I cannot help you. Would you like to use nitrogen to inflate your tires to 425 psi? That's super dangerous. I won't help you. We do, however, sell race tires at reasonable inflations. Aluminum not included. Check out our website On-SiteTires.com
Until next month, Drive On!
The Tire Guy