January 2008 Issue

Brake Right

Safe ground operations depend on knowing your airplane’s brake system and how to obtain reliable stopping power when you really need it.

Transforming our elegant aerial machines into land vehicles is arguably the single most difficult aspect of flying. Many flight hours are spent practicing approaches and landings, occasionally followed by smooth deceleration to a safe, controlled stop. Brakes help make this possible, but if you ignore or abuse them they can bite back in a most spiteful way. The brakes in most general aviation airplanes involve relatively simple systems, but they’re not as robust as an automobile’s. For one thing, most personal airplanes aren’t equipped with an anti-lock brake system. For another, automobile brake components are larger, heavier and more powerful. Yet, we often find ourselves in an airplane on or near the ground traveling at highway speeds. And, like so many tasks associated with aviation, there’s also a right and wrong way to use an airplane’s brakes. Let’s start with how to inspect them.

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