Guide to the Airplane Brake System

While aircraft primarily operate in the sky through the use of their engines and airfoil structures, there are still various instances in which they will traverse the ground, such as when taxiing on a runway, lifting off, and touching down. When on the ground, aircraft rely on their brake systems to slow down their speed and come to a stop. Such assemblies are also expertly designed as they will need to enable a vehicle of such massive weight to come to a safe stop when landing at high speeds.

Similar to the assemblies of automobiles, aircraft feature disc brakes. These disc brakes are much more robust than those in automobiles, yet they still rely on other systems such as thrust reversers and flaps to amply come to a stop upon landing. Generally, the airplane brake assembly and other systems will simultaneously activate when the wheels of the aircraft touch down on the runway.

In the early days of aviation, most aircraft were devoid of braking systems, instead relying on slow speeds, soft surfaces, and the friction of landing to safely come to a stop. By World War I, brake systems began to be implemented on aircraft, and this endeavor was bolstered by the development of smoother, paved runways. With more ability to land and stop, aircraft technology started to progress more rapidly as larger aircraft came about.

When a typical aircraft lands nowadays, it does so at high speeds that may reach upwards of 165 mph. This is a very dangerous speed to be moving while on the ground, so the airplane brake system ensures rapid stopping power that minimizes distance traveled upon touchdown. As braking power is primarily achieved through the friction generated between the wheels and the ground, weight is a major factor in stopping power. As such, the aircraft will dump its lift so that all the weight is placed on the wheels.

To achieve this, the aircraft also utilizes spoilers and thrust reversers that are often automatically governed by a computer. Upon landing, the spoilers will be fully activated, reducing aerodynamic lift while increasing drag. Thrust reversers can be activated as needed, and they are used to send the exhaust from the engine forward. While creating stopping power, this also reduces the amount of stress faced by the wheels.

No matter the landing gear configuration of an aircraft, all typically work through the use of mechanical or hydraulic linkages that attach to the rudder pedal. When a rudder pedal is depressed, a brake will press down on the correlating wheel, and a caliper will resist rotation through friction. While multiple disc brake systems are the most common assembly on modern-day aircraft others may take advantage of dual disc brakes or single desk brakes. With any brake assembly, it is paramount that operators enact regular maintenance and inspections to ensure health and reliability. If you find yourself in need of various aircraft brake parts, aircraft electronic systems, or other various aviation products, we have you covered on NSN Sphere.

NSN Sphere is a trusted distributor of aircraft parts, all of which have been sourced from top global manufacturers that we trust. Across our database, we list over 2 billion new, used, obsolete, and hard-to-find components that cater to a diverse set of industries and applications. Explore our offerings as you see fit, and our team members are always readily available for customers to assist them through the purchasing process as necessary. If you find particular items on our website that you would like to procure, fill out and submit an RFQ form through our website at your earliest convenience, and a dedicated account manager will reach out to you with a customized solution for your needs within 15 minutes or less. Experience the future of part procurement today when you get in touch with an NSN Sphere representative!


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February 3, 2022
December 23, 2021

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