Emergency Brake Systems

in Aircraft Landing Gear Systems

Emergency Brake Systems

As can be seen in Figure 13-99, the brake metering valves not only receive hydraulic pressure from two separate hydraulic systems, they also feed two separate brake assemblies. Each main wheel assembly has two wheels. The inboard wheel brake and the outboard wheel brake, located in their respective wheel rims, are independent from each other. In case of hydraulic system failure or brake failure, each is independently supplied to adequately slow and stop the aircraft without the other. More complicated aircraft may involve another hydraulic system for back-up or use a similar alternation of sources and brake assemblies to maintain braking in case of hydraulic system or brake failure.


Figure 13-99. The power brake system on a Boeing 737.

Figure 13-99. The power brake system on a Boeing 737. [click image to enlarge]

NOTE: In the segmented rotor brake section above, a brake assembly was described that had alternating pistons supplied by independent hydraulic sources. This is another method of redundancy particularly suitable on, but not limited to, single main wheel aircraft.

In addition to supply system redundancy, the brake accumulator is also an emergency source of power for the brakes in many power brake systems. The accumulator is pre-charged with air or nitrogen on one side of its internal diaphragm. Enough hydraulic fluid is contained on the other side of the diaphragm to operate the brakes in case of an emergency. It is forced out of the accumulator into the brakes through the system lines under enough stored pressure to slow the aircraft. Typically, the accumulator is located upstream of the brake control/metering valve to capitalize on the control given by the valve. [Figure 13-101]

Figure 13-101. Emergency brake hydraulic fluid accumulators are precharged with nitrogen to deliver brake fluid to the brakes in the event normal and alternate hydraulic sources fail.

Figure 13-101. Emergency brake hydraulic fluid accumulators are precharged with nitrogen to deliver brake fluid to the brakes in the event normal and alternate hydraulic sources fail.

Some simpler power brake systems may use an emergency source of brake power that is delivered directly to the brake assemblies and bypasses the remainder of the brake system completely. A shuttle valve immediately upstream of the brake units shifts to accept this source when pressure is lost from the primary supply sources. Compressed air or nitrogen is sometimes used. A pre-charged fluid source can also be used as an alternate hydraulic source.

Parking Brake

The parking brake system function is a combined operation. The brakes are applied with the rudder pedals and a ratcheting system holds them in place when the parking brake lever on the flight deck is pulled. [Figure 13-102] At the same time, a shut-off valve is closed in the common return line from the brakes to the hydraulic system. This traps the fluid in the brakes holding the rotors stationary. Depressing the pedals further releases the pedal ratchet and opens the return line valve.

Figure 13-102. The parking brake lever on a Boeing 737 center pedestal throttle quadrant.

Figure 13-102. The parking brake lever on a Boeing 737 center pedestal throttle quadrant.

Brake Deboosters

Some aircraft brake assemblies that operate on aircraft hydraulic system pressure are not designed for such high pressure. They provide effective braking through a power brake system but require less than maximum hydraulic system pressure. To supply the lower pressure, a brake debooster cylinder is installed downstream of the control valve and anti-skid valve. [Figure 13-103] The debooster reduces all pressure from the control valve to within the working range of the brake assembly.

Figure 13-103. The location of a brake debooster cylinder on a landing gear strut and the debooster’s position in relation to other components of a power brake system.

Figure 13-103. The location of a brake debooster cylinder on a landing gear strut and the debooster’s position in relation to other components of a power brake system. [click image to enlarge]

Brake deboosters are simple devices that use the application of force over different sized pistons to reduce pressure. [Figure 13-104] Their operation can be understood through the application of the following equation:

Pressure = Force/Area

Figure 13-104. Brake deboosters.

Figure 13-104. Brake deboosters.

High-pressure hydraulic system input pressure acts on the small end of a piston. This develops a force proportional to the area of the piston head. The other end of the piston is larger and housed in a separate cylinder. The force from the smaller piston head is transferred to the larger area of the other end of the piston. The amount of pressure conveyed by the larger end of the piston is reduced due to the greater area over which the force is spread. The volume of output fluid increases since a larger piston and cylinder are used. The reduced pressure is delivered to the brake assembly.

The spring in the debooster aids in returning the piston to the ready position. If fluid is lost downstream of the deboost cylinder, the piston travels further down into the cylinder when the brakes are applied. The pin unseats the ball and allows fluid into the lower cylinder to replace what was lost. Once replenished, the piston rises up in the cylinder due to pressure build-up. The ball reseats as the piston travels above the pin and normal braking resumes. This function is not meant to permit leaks in the brake assemblies. Any leak discovered must be repaired by the technician.

A lockout debooster functions as a debooster and a hydraulic fuse. If fluid is not encountered as the piston moves down in the cylinder, the flow of fluid to the brakes is stopped. This prevents the loss of all system hydraulic fluid should a rupture downstream of the debooster occur. Lockout deboosters have a handle to reset the device after it closes as a fuse. If not reset, no braking action is possible.