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

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Pablo Edronkin

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The Dauntless was a naval plane and used to take off and land from aircraft carriers. Thus, these planes also had another pretty exotic braking system: The hook and cable. This is used in aircraft carriers and consists in a hook installed on the back section of the plane, and a series of steel cables that run across the landing deck of the carrier and are attached to some very strong, elastic devices intended to absorb the energy delivered by the motion and mass of each plane that lands. Aviators "simply " have to land their planes in a way such as to allow the hook to become essentially entangled in one of those cables.

This exotic design led to an extremely good airplane that proved decisive during WWII: It was a squadron of these dive bombers the one that located and destroyed Admiral Nagumo's aircraft carrier fleet during the ill-fated Japanese landing attempt at Midway.

Some combat planes - land based - like the F-104 Starfighter or the Mirage III used or still use parachutes as a braking system; this is effective particularly in the case of very high landing speed airplanes in order to use less runway and thus minimise operating expenses and construction requirements.

And both onboard ships as well as land based runways, there is yet another exotic braking system in use: The net. This is literally, a net designed to catch runaway airplanes, and has found its main use again, among the military.

Aircraft carriers but also some land bases have them installed as a last-resort measure to stop planes that for some reason or another are able to land but not to brake completely before they reach a security threshold. This net, which looks like a gigantic tennis, table tennis or volleyball net may cause some damage to the plane, but it put in place to avoid loosing a valuable piece of hardware, trained aviators as well as other collateral things.

Gravity may be used as a stopping device too: In many runways located in hilly terrain there is a slope. Runways are not created all equal and are not perfectly flat and level, and some mountain airstrips take advantage of this: Planes simply land uphill and take off downhill, either over grass, stones or snow; ice is generally horizontal over rivers and lakes, but horizontal doesn't necessarily mean flat.


In dis picture of a partially dismantled cockpit of a Luscombe you can see two sets of pedals for the pilot (rudder and brakes) and only two for the co-pilot (rudder); this is a common - if somewhat lacking - configuration for many small GA airplanes.
In dis picture of a partially dismantled cockpit of a Luscombe you can see two sets of pedals for the pilot (rudder and brakes) and only two for the co-pilot (rudder); this is a common - if somewhat lacking - configuration for many small GA airplanes.



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