I admit it, after a long career writing about the rubber industry, 18 months into mostly retirement, I still am hooked on stories about rubber.
I see “rubber” or related words—tire, hose, belt, etc.—in a publication or on a screen, and I can't help to at least glance at the text. Like the one in the Florida Sun Sentinel the other day about how much rubber is left on runways by airliners.
Before I get into that, let me digress. Ah, the Sun Sentinel ... I always will have a fond place in my heart for that Fort Lauderdale, Fla., newspaper. When I was a budding managing editor at this publication, I got a call from that daily asking if I wanted to come down for a three-day tryout. All expenses paid.
I'd been managing editor for about six months at Rubber & Plastics News and had just settled into a new place in Akron, a weeks-old baby in tow. It crossed my mind that three days away from nocturnal baby rocking and deadline days that lasted into the night might be selfishly delightful.
I passed. Sleep deprivation, endless free coffee at the office, stressful work under the tutelage of my perfectionist editor, was just too exciting. Seriously. And the rubber industry was revealing itself to be a fascinating subject, full of competition and controversy, the URW vs. the tire makers, the effects of a devastating recession, open warfare between companies and government regulators. Heaven for a journalist.
Also, I was hard into completing the Rubber Division's Rubber Chemistry & Technology correspondence course. I didn't want to waste that knowledge.
Knowledge that means a simple story about the amount of rubber left on a runway by landing jets still peaks my interest.
How much, you may ask? At the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, the answer is 7,500 pounds, the amount being removed from two runways that were closed for a couple of days. It is the product of that lovely squealing sound as tread is burned off when a big Boeing drops out of the sky at maybe 130-160 mph and the tires hit the pavement and the brakes are applied.
It would have been a nice number to know when I returned to Cleveland's airport the other day after a flight originating in San Francisco. We'd sat on the runway for an hour on the way out because just before takeoff, the pilot noticed the tire pressure in one tire was low. I became the know-it-all among my nearby passengers, lecturing about aircraft tires, Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems and retreading.
They seemed interested. Or, at least, polite.
If you find that 7,500 pound number thought provoking, or talk about retreads to strangers on a plane, rubber has you hooked, too.
Noga is a contributing editor of RPN and its former editor. He can be reached at [email protected].