Aircraft Brakes: The Various Types in an a Modern Plane

Posted by Stefan

When aviation was a relatively new means of travel, pilots relied on three things to land safely: slow speeds, the soft surface of the airfield and the friction by skidding the tail to reduce speed upon landing.

Nowadays, with the advancement of avionics, several different braking systems ensure a safe landing of commercial jets and the now discontinued space shuttle. 

This article will discuss the different types of aircraft brakes utilised in the aerospace industry and how some of them work.

Disc Brakes are Tailored to Different Situations

It may surprise you that there is an assortment of various aircraft disc brakes, all tailored to different situations. The basic principle of aircraft disc brakes is that they are operated hydraulically and are activated by the pilot applying the top section of the rudder pedals (also referred to as the toe brakes in the airline industry). In some older aircraft, the bottom section is used instead (also known as the heel brakes).

The other aircraft disc brakes you can find are single, dual, multiple, and rotor. Single and dual disc brakes can be paired together on the aircraft wheels with the latter being on standby in case the single brakes are not producing enough braking friction to slow the aircraft. Multiple disc brakes are more prolifically used for heavy aircraft. With the serious braking power of multiple disc brakes, they have their drawbacks in the form of heat. To relieve the build-up of heat segmented rotor discs are used.

Aerospace Advancements have Introduced Carbon Brakes

With the advancement of aircraft brakes implementing new emerging technologies, carbon brakes have been recently introduced into the aerospace industry. Understandably, these new brakes come with a plethora of benefits like less weight, longer service life and better heat dissipation. These new aircraft brakes have proven to be popular with a 2021 report from Airforce Technology announcing that the US Air Force and Lockheed Martin requested carbon brakes for 60 of their C-130J Super Hercules aircraft in service for the US Air Force.

However, there is a lot more to aircraft brakes in the aerospace industry than just various carbon and disc brakes. Planes also have air brakes allowing them to control speed during descent or level flight. Even the thrust from engines can be used to slow the aircraft. Large drogue parachutes are also used by most air forces, some civilian aircraft and the space shuttle.

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