Design of Aircraft Wheels and Brake Systems

In the early days of aviation, pilots often had to rely on the slow speeds of aircraft, friction of tail skid, airfield surfaces, and other factors to slow down planes that were devoid of aircraft brake parts. After World War I, aircraft began to improve upon their wheel and brake systems, allowing for safer ground operations with better stopping power and times. With brakes, pilots obtained the ability to taxi around and steer more efficiently, opening up more opportunities for flight and safety capabilities.

Typically, most modern aircraft allow for the pilot to control the braking system through the use of mechanical and/or hydraulic linkages to rudder peddles. Through using these pedals, the pilot can independently govern the left and right wheel brakes. Although there are different types of brakes, all function on the same concept of friction, applying pressure to aircraft wheel parts to slow them down to a stop.

The aircraft disk brake is the most commonly used type across aircraft, featuring a disc that rotates alongside the turning wheel assembly. With a stationary caliper, friction is applied as the brakes are activated, clamping the wheel. Depending on the size, weight, and speed of the aircraft, the design of aircraft brake parts may vary. Common aircraft disc brake types include single, dual, and multiple disc brakes, though other types exist as well.

For smaller and lighter aircraft, the single disc brake system is the most common type, featuring a disc that is either keyed or bolted to each wheel. The disc rotates in unison with the wheel during operation, and a non-rotating caliper applies friction to each side of the disc when brakes are activated. With hydraulic pressure enacted on pistons, brake pads and lining are forced on the disc to slow down the aircraft wheel parts. To supply pressure, hydraulic master cylinders are operated when the rudder pedals are pressed.

To ensure that brake linings are evenly worn and optimally apply friction, equal pressure is needed on both sides of the brake disc. With a floating disc, even distribution of friction is achieved. Brake discs may also be securely bolted to aircraft wheel parts, permitting the caliper and linings to be laterally floating when applied.

The drum type disk brake is another form of braking system, most commonly used for older and more exotic models. Drum aircraft brake parts typically rely on either hydraulic or pneumatic pressure systems to achieve their stopping power, and sometimes a cable system may be in place as well. Drum brakes are composed of a round drum, and shoes are used to apply pressure against the drum, causing the aircraft to slow down. With springs, the shoes may be controlled while operating brake pressure.


April 28, 2021

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