Aircraft brakes operate under a wide range of extreme conditions and unprecedented stressors. As a result of such circumstances, aircraft brakes are prone to malfunction and damage. In this blog, we will provide an overview of the common brake problems aircraft experience during their service lives.
Aircraft brakes slow aircraft by changing kinetic energy into just enough heat energy without causing the brakes to overheat. Excessive heat can damage and distort brake components, weakening them to the point of failure. However, protocol for brake usage is put in place to prevent this from occurring. When brakes show signs of overheating, the brake(s) must be removed from the aircraft and inspected for wear.
Post-overheat inspection begins with the removal and disassembly of the aircraft brakes. Then, all of the seals must be replaced, and the brake housing checked for cracks, warping, or hardness. Any weakness or loss of heat treatment may cause the brake to fail under high-pressure braking. The brake discs must also be examined for dents and damage. Once reassembled, the brakes must be bench tested for leaks and pressure tested for functionality before being reinstalled in the aircraft.
Brake drag is a common occurrence that is caused by the linings not retracting from the brake disc when the brakes are not being used. It is important to note that brakes that drag are partially applied at all times. This can result in excessive lining wear and overheating which leads to disc damage. Brake drag may also happen when the return mechanism is not working properly. This may be due to a weak return spring, the return pin sliding into the auto adjuster pin grip, or a similar malfunction. If dragging is reported, examine the auto adjuster(s) and return units on the brake. An overheated brake will warp the disc, which produces brake drag. Similarly, air in the brake fluid line can also cause brake drag.
Chattering or Squealing
Brakes may also chatter or squeal if the linings do not move smoothly along the disc. Warped brake discs in a multiple brake disc stack cause the brake to be continuously applied and removed many times per minute, producing a chattering-like noise which, at high frequency, sounds like squealing. Discs that have overheated will show signs of damage to the surface layer of the disc, resulting in uneven disc surfaces that produce such sounds. Vibration may also lead to further damage of the brake, the return spring landing gear system, and other integral structures.
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