Bridgestone Expands Aircraft Retreading Plant
Bridgestone Aircraft Tire (Europe) sa/nv in Frameries is expanding capacity to keep pace with increased aircraft production worldwide from Airbus and Boeing. A reinvigorated European aviation market and soaring demand from new and existing Middle Eastern fleets is a major influence in projected growth. According to the company, Bridgestone Aircraft Tire (Europe) is market leader with a share of around 50 per cent. “So far we have retreaded some 2 million tyres which is equal to the tyre supply of Lufthansa Airlines for some 120 years,” company representatives told Tyres & Accessories.
With 165 personnel and a turnover of more than 43 million euros, Bridgestone Aircraft Tire (Europe) is a major original equipment supplier to commercial aircraft manufacturers and the No 1 new and retread tyre supplier in Europe, Middle East and Africa. The Belgian retreading centre – which distributes Bridgestone new tyres manufactured in Japan and retreaded casings – is gearing up for further growth.
“Half of our turnover comes from leasing tyres,” says president Thierry Van Crombrugge “where we provide customers with a SUP price (average between new and retreads) or on a CPAL basis (Cost Per Aircraft Landing). It is therefore essential to calculate precisely the average life and number of landings for each tyre, which can vary enormously by geographical location, aircraft weight, type of usage (passenger or freight), size of airport, length of runway, and even season.
“Technically, an aviation tyre is the most demanding to produce; it has to support up to 30 tons, run at up to 380 km/h and withstand altitude temperatures as low as -55 °C, before landing and braking in a short distance. The energy force transfer from the brakes to the tyres is enormous.
“Depending on the type of aircraft, we can expect a tread life of between 200 and 500 flights, or a maximum of 10 years from the date of manufacture. This of course includes retreading up to 6 times for a main tyre and perhaps 12 times for a nose tyre.
The performance of a new tyre and a retreaded unit are equal, as both need to meet demanding criteria to gain airworthy acceptance. Each tyre once delivered to the airline remains with that customer for its entire life.
“At our Belgian plant we receive more than 100,000 used commercial aviation tyres a year, of which approximately 20 per cent are rejected as unsuitable for retreading, Safety is always our prime concern.
“Retreading is a delicate operation. After inspection, the used tyre has the tread area buffed off. If the inspection is positive at this stage, the tyre then moves on through the retreading process whereby the tread is rebuilt using either nylon or aramid fibre to give additional cut resistance and stability.
Subsequent to curing in automated presses, the tyre then passes through a non destructive test using Sherography, scanning the tyre from one bead to the other at different pressures to check for durability and anomalies. If an anomaly is detected the tyre is rejected and scrapped.
Bridgestone Aircraft Tire is now preparing for the Airbus A380 and new Boeing fleet era. As well as distributing tyres manufactured in Japan for these giant aircraft, the Frameries plant is gearing up its retread facility to handle the increased volumes required and machinery to take these larger sizes of tyres.