Most aircraft tires are filled with nitrogen as opposed to air because of their stability at different altitudes and temperatures. Air is about 20% oxygen, which at high pressures and temperatures is a very reactive element.
Aircraft tires have the potential to run very hot, so much so that they can actually reach the auto-ignition temperature of oxygen and thus catch on fire. As nitrogen doesn't support combustion, nitrogen-filled tires displace fuels that aid in combustion. Nitrogen also helps prevent and/or slow oxidation.
Tires aren’t the only application for nitrogen aboard aircraft – the shocks and struts that support the landing gear also employ nitrogen. Shock absorbers and struts are hydraulically driven systems that utilize dual cylinders – the inner cylinder is filled entirely with the hydraulic fluid, while the outer cylinder contains a combination of fluid and gas, most commonly nitrogen.
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