The number of wheels an airplane has varies depending on the type of aircraft, and its weight. The planes used by commercial airlines typically have 10+ wheels, as they need to support enormous weights while taxiing, at rest, and during takeoff and landings.
Light aircraft, on the other hand, can get away with using just 3 wheels to provide enough support for their smaller frames and bodies.
Number of Wheels on the Most Popular Airplanes
- Airbus A330: 10 wheels
- Airbus A340-200/300: 12 wheels
- Airbus A340–500/600: 14 wheels
- Airbus A350-900: 10 wheels
- Airbus A350–1000: 14 wheels
- Airbus A380: 22 wheels
- Boeing 717, 727, 737: 6 wheels
- Boeing 747: 18 wheels
- Boeing 757, 767: 10 wheels
- Boeing 777: 14 wheels
- Boeing 787 Dreamliner: 10 wheels
Unique Wheel Arrangements
- Most Wheels: The Antonov An-225 Mriya, which at 628,317l lbs. holds the record for being the heaviest aircraft ever built, has a whopping 32 wheels. Only one exists
- Bicycle-Type Landing Gear Arrangement: With this arrangement, the main landing gear is located in tandem on the fuselage with smaller outrigger wheels found on the wings. The Boeing B-52, Lockheed U-2, Harrier Jump Jet all use this arrangement
- Single-Wheel Main Landing Gear: With this arrangement, there is a single large gear unit and a smaller auxiliary tailwheel along the centerline. The original Cold War-era Convair B-36 “Peacemaker” used this arrangement
What Determines How Many Wheels An Airplane Has?
Weight of the Airplane
The most important factor that determines how many wheels an airplane has is the weight of the airplane itself.
An airplane’s landing gear needs to be designed in such a way to be able to take all its weight while on the ground, as well as distribute all of its weight evenly as the airplane’s wheels hit the ground and lands. If not, the runway will not be able to take such a concentrated amount of weight and suffer damage. The Convair B-36, with its single-wheel main landing gear, is a prime example of this.
The Convair B-36 used just two huge tires to support its massive weight. Inevitably, this didn’t end well thanks to the airplane’s tires placing so much pressure on runways that the plane was restricted to the Fort Worth airfield next to where it was manufactured, and just two further USAF bases. The plane had to eventually be redesigned with a four-tire arrangement.
The designers of the Antonov An-225 Mriya, on the other hand, got it right with its 32 wheels to sufficiently support the aircraft’s mammoth weight.
The weight of the airplane, number of wheels, and braking system all go hand in hand. This is because an airplane’s brakes become more effective when there are multiple points of contact at which they can be used on the runway.
If an airplane needs to land on a short runway or otherwise needs to stop quickly for any reason, the more wheels and more brakes the better.