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In the early days of aviation, there were no brake systems to slow and stop the aircraft while it was on the ground. Instead, slow speeds, soft airfield surfaces, and friction caused by the tail skid were used to reduce speed during ground operations. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case and all modern aircraft have brakes.
1. For most aircraft, each of the main wheels is equipped with a brake unit utilizing mechanical and/or hydraulic linkages connected to rudder pedals allowing the pilot to control the brakes. The kinetic energy of pressing on the rudder pedals causes friction to be applied on the wheels, turning into heat energy which can cause damage to the brake system components. As a result, proper adjustment, inspection, and maintenance for all brake system components is crucial.
2. Aircraft brakes are usually disc brakes, where the disc rotates with the turning wheel assembly while a stationary caliper resists the rotation by causing friction against the disk when the brakes are applied. While smaller and lighter aircraft can suffice with single disc brakes, there are also dual and multiple disc brakes used depending on the type of aircraft. For larger aircraft, there are segmented rotor brakes.
3. In addition to brake assemblies, there are other components to be worried about. Brake actuating systems are how the required hydraulic fluid pressure is delivered to the brake assemblies. There are three basic types of actuating systems: 1) an independent system not part of the aircraft’s main hydraulic system; 2) a booster system that uses the main hydraulics intermittently; and 3) a power brake system that primarily uses the main hydraulics. There are also emergency brake systems and anti-skid systems, both of which have their own laundry list of parts and components requiring regular maintenance and repair.
Because of the nature of braking, things like overheating and dragging are common ways in which brake systems can be damaged. As a result, it’s important to check every part of the brake system, from the seals and lining to the housing and discs.
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