The Squadron Innovation Funds earmarked by Air Force Materiel Command to drive innovation at the landing gear test facility (LGTF) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, US, has improved evaluation of the impact of runway friction on aircraft tire wear.

The total fund allocation of over $4.6m in fiscal year 2018 includes $23,000 to augment the 3D runway surface scanning and surface re-creation at the LGTF.

Aerospace Survivability and Safety Office 704th Test Group flight chief Scott Wacker noted that the innovative project was conceived years ago.

Wacker said: “The 704 TG Aerospace Survivability and Safety Office at Wright-Patterson has spent over a decade at the Landing Gear Test Facility developing advanced test methods that allow the evaluation of aircraft tire and runway friction interaction and tire wear.

“This effort has focused on developing innovative technologies and processes to more accurately simulate real-world tire performance in the test facility. At the heart of this work is the 168in internal drum dynamometer (168i), which is a world-unique test machine developed and commissioned in 1998 for the purpose of aircraft tire wear testing.”

“With the development of the new test capabilities, the USAF now has a method to evaluate aircraft tire performance before mass producing and fielding tires.”

168i has the ability to operate at speeds up to 350mph and can handle loads of up to 150,000lb.

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3D Runway Surface Scanning and Surface Re-Creation project test manager Jonathan Childress said: “All of these aspects can be dynamically programmed to replicate aircraft ground operations.

“Also, the tire footprint pressure on the internal drum dynamometer more closely resembles tire footprint pressure on a flat surface than it does on an external dynamometer.”

The 704 TG/OL-AC LGTF team is now capable of cloning US Air Force (USAF) concrete runways and lining the interior of the 168i with the replicated runway surface.

Runway surface replication enables ground handling evaluation and tire-life predictive testing.

With the development of the new test capabilities, the USAF now has a method to evaluate aircraft tire performance before mass producing and fielding tires.

This capability will lead to improved safety-of-flight, as well as reduced acquisition and logistics costs.