AKRON, Ohio, March 30 /PRNewswire/ — 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 was still 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 (NYSE: GT) introduced the first tire built for aviation use. The Goodyear Wing Aeroplane Tire was built by the company’s engineers to be lightweight, help resist punctures and be easy to remove.
In 2009, 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 retreadable aircraft tire in 1927, opening an era of lower cost operation that is still a vital part of today’s aviation industry. The Goodyear Airwheel (1928) was the first low pressure aviation tire, virtually eliminating the need for a wheel by mounting directly to the hub.
In 1939, Goodyear extended its tire expertise 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, implemented during the U.S. involvement in the Korean War and produced the successful Corsair aircraft.
Peace time presented grand new opportunities for Goodyear aviation. In 1971, American astronauts Alan Shepard and Ed Mitchell of the Apollo 14 moon mission were equipped with a rickshaw-like collecting cart on the lunar surface. The two-wheeled device came equipped with Goodyear tires. On the next mission, the first lunar rover vehicle featured revolutionary metal-and-wire "tires" from Goodyear.
Later that decade, Goodyear’s experience in manufacturing tires for military aviation was applied on a growing area of passenger aviation. Business jets, such as those made by Lear, Gulfstream, Bombardier and Cessna, were becoming increasingly popular. By moving from propeller engines to jet engines, these airplanes needed 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.
Over the past 30 years, Goodyear has focused its aviation development on the rapidly changing commercial and private aircraft industries. For example:
* In 1980, Goodyear’s Flight Custom II was the first bias ply aircraft tire featuring DuPont(TM) Kevlar(R) brand fiber;
* In 1983, Goodyear made the first radial aircraft tire approved by the FAA;
* In 1992, Goodyear made its entry into the regional jet business, becoming an OE supplier for the Bombardier CRJ 100/200.
* In 2008, Goodyear’s Flight Custom III was named the best overall value for private aircraft by The Aviation Consumer.
In 2009, Goodyear is the world’s largest supplier of aviation tires for commercial, military and general aviation aircraft. Operating a global business from its Akron, Ohio headquarters, Goodyear manufactures aviation tires and retreads in the United States, Thailand, Brazil, and The Netherlands. For more information on Goodyear aviation tires, retreading and services, and to see the new 100th anniversary logo, visit www.goodyearaviation.com.