How Do Airplanes Brake in the Air?

Aircraft brakes are critical for safe landings and takeoffs, and they work by using friction to slow down or stop the plane. The brake assemblies are made up of a series of pads, shoes, and discs located on the wheels. When the pilot wants to slow down or stop the plane, they will apply pressure to the brakes, which causes the pads and shoes to press against the discs. This creates friction, slowing down the wheels and eventually stopping the plane. Aircraft brakes are designed to withstand high temperatures and heavy use, making them an essential safety feature on any aircraft. In addition, they are designed to withstand extreme temperatures and conditions, ensuring that the plane can stop safely in any situation. In addition to the brake assemblies situated on the wheels, there are other various systems that aid in slowing an aircraft, and having a basic familiarity with the most common types is beneficial for any current or prospective pilot.

The Different Types of Brakes in an Airplane

Aircraft brakes are used to slow down and stop an aircraft while on the ground, or sometimes while it is in the air as well. There are two main types of aircraft brakes: air brakes and landing brakes.

Air brakes are typically used during taxiing, takeoff, and landing. They work by reducing the lift generated by the wings, which slows the aircraft down. Landing brakes are located on the landing gear and are used to slow the aircraft down after it is down on the runway. Aircraft brakes on landing gear wheels typically consist of a caliper, a rotor, and a brake pad. The caliper is a housing that holds the brake pads in place, while the rotor is attached to the wheel and turns with it. Finally, the brake pad is located between the caliper and the rotor. When the brake pedal is depressed by the pilot within the cockpit, the caliper squeezes the brake pads against the rotor, slowing down the wheel.

Aircraft brakes can be made from either steel or ceramic materials. Steel brakes are typically used on larger aircraft because they can handle higher temperatures and are less likely to wear out over time. Ceramic brakes are usually used on smaller aircraft because they weigh less and have better heat-dissipation properties. Due to the stressors that they face on a regular basis, aircraft brakes must be regularly inspected and replaced when they wear out.

In addition to the aforementioned brake types, there are also two central braking systems: spoilers and thrust reversers. Spoilers are located on the wings and are used to disrupt the airflow around the aircraft, resulting in drag which helps to slow the aircraft down. Thrust reversers are located at the back of the engine and work by redirecting the engine's thrust forward, which also helps slow the aircraft down. Both brakes are essential for safe landing and takeoff operations, and both must be carefully maintained.

Spoilers are usually deployed when the aircraft is descending for landing or taxiing on the ground. The spoilers create drag that opposes the aircraft's forward motion and helps to slow it down. The spoilers also help keep the aircraft's nose from pitching up when it lands. Furthermore, the deployment of the spoilers increases the load on the main landing gear, which helps the wheels from skidding during landing. The spoilers are retracted when the aircraft takes off so that they do not create drag during flight. Spoiler systems are designed to be operated automatically or manually in case of hydraulic system failure. Aircraft brakes must be able to stop the aircraft within a certain distance regardless of runway conditions.

To increase the amount of braking force possible, many aircraft are equipped with thrust reversers. Thrust reversers are doors that open up to redirect engine exhaust in the direction the aircraft is moving, rather than from the back. This reversing action provides significant braking power and allows the aircraft to slow down more quickly. However, one disadvantage of using thrust reversers is that they can produce a loud noise when activated, which can distract passengers and crew members. In addition, they can only be used when the aircraft is on the ground, so they are not an option for slowing down an aircraft mid-flight.

The Workings of Aircraft Wheel Brakes

Aircraft brakes are critical for ensuring the safety of a flight, and they work by converting the energy of motion into heat through friction. While braking, disc brakes work by using pads to grip a rotating disc, slowing the wheel down. On the other hand, drum brakes rely on shoes that press against the inside of a drum to slow the wheel. Both brakes are effective at slowing an airplane down, but disc brakes tend to be more efficient for ample stopping power. To brake on a runway, aircraft use a combination of their main landing gear brakes and their nose wheel or tail wheel brakes. The main landing gear brakes are used to slow the plane down during takeoff and landing, while the nose wheel or tail wheel brakes are used for taxiing and when the plane is stopped on the runway. Aircraft also have emergency brakes that can be activated as necessary. Emergency brakes work by using a simple lever to apply maximum pressure to the brake pads, which can stop a plane in a very short distance.

Limits of Airplane Brakes

Aircraft brakes are essential for safe landing and takeoff. However, there are limits to the braking force aircraft can generate. The amount of braking force is determined by the size and weight of the aircraft and the type of terrain it is on. In addition, aircraft brakes are designed to withstand a certain amount of heat generated by the friction between the brake pads and the wheel. If the brakes get too hot, they may fail. In addition, aircraft brakes should be capable of resisting wear and tear from repeated use. Over time, brake pads and other parts will need to be replaced to maintain peak performance. As a result, it is essential to have a skilled mechanic who can properly maintain your aircraft brakes.


Aircraft brakes are critical safety components that enable pilots to slow down and stop a plane during taxiing, landing, and takeoff. Aircraft brakes are designed to work under various conditions, but they have limitations, making it important that you procure the right assembly for your needs. Aerospace Sphere Services is a premier aviation, NSN, and electronic parts supplier. If you want to purchase high-quality aviation parts, look no further than Aerospace Sphere Services. We guarantee quality products with full-time customer support. 


July 29, 2021
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