Most aircraft tires are filled with nitrogen as opposed to air because of its stability at different altitudes and temperatures. Air is about 20% oxygen, which at high pressures and temperatures is a very reactive element. Oxygen reaction with other elements is more commonly known as oxidation.
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 displaces 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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