How Do The Brakes Of An Airplane Work? (II)

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Pablo Edronkin

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In the case of flight simulators and training devices it is possible to use the auto braking option to avoid the harm that careless student pilots may cause on the mechanical actuators that are connected to the braking pedals may suffer. These actuators transform the mechanical energy received by the pedals into electrical pulses that signal a computer running the simulation that simulated braking should take place. So, in order to avoid this over and over again, I always suggest that the pilots in the simulator cockpit use the auto brake if the y have one.

We should mention at this point that friction is always used to stop an airplane, either caused by aerodynamic resistance, the mechanic friction originated in the actuation of braking disks and similar devices, as well as the natural friction that develops as the airplane touches down. In places where a small airplane may land on long grass airfields or off-runway this becomes quite noticeable. Actually, if you lose your brakes it could be a way to perform a pretty soft landing with more safety than attempting to do so in a tarmac.

Taking advantage of friction for braking in such a way has one limitation, however, and that is the landing weight of the plane in relation to the weight that the soil at the landing site can withstand. If the plane is too heavy for that particular soil instead of a soft manoeuver what will likely happen is that the landing gear will be washed away and an ensuing serious accident will occur.

ABS or anti block brakes is a system that has been invented within the aeronautical industry, as well as many other refinements that initially were very expensive and investment in their development wasn't feasible in the "lowly" car industry, which is one that has benefited significantly from aeronautical technology.

However, some things may seem odd at first glance: Airplanes with conventional landing gear (those with the small tail wheel instead of a bigger one in the front) carry pretty ineffective hydraulic brakes, on purpose and by design. And while this may seem odd there is a very real reason for the "flaw": If the pilot applies too much braking power, the plane may capsize and turn over its nose.

Airplanes often have other braking systems that have no counterpart within the world of land based vehicles. These brake designs take advantage of aerodynamic properties or phenomena, and we will begin with the most common of all: The reversers and spoilers.


However, most modern airplanes have just two composite-movement or combined pedals; with these, you use the heels to move the rudder and the tip to actuate the differential wheels like we see now on the cockpit of the AN-1 simulator.
However, most modern airplanes have just two composite-movement or combined pedals; with these, you use the heels to move the rudder and the tip to actuate the differential wheels like we see now on the cockpit of the AN-1 simulator.



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