Aircraft Landing Gear | The Secret to Getting Planes Onto & Off of the Ground
New fliers often want a window seat because takeoffs and landings are the most exciting moments of being on an airplane. You get to watch everything shrink as you depart from the Earth below and watch your new destination zoom in as you land. This would not be possible without aircraft landing gear systems.
Landing gear shoulders an immense amount of pressure during each takeoff and landing, acting as the ultimate suspension system. Whether you’re taxiing from the gate or touching down after an 18-hour flight, the landing gear is a core part of aircraft operations.
Aircraft landing gear manufacturers design these systems to not only endure this pressure but also create a smoother ride and keep passengers safe. But what makes up the sum of what we call “landing gear?” Check out these 4 essential aircraft landing gear systems.
Hit the Brakes | How Else Would You Stop?
If you have ever had to suddenly slam on your brakes while driving your car, you probably have a pretty good idea of how important braking systems are. Now, imagine you have to stop a fully-loaded Boeing 747 that weighs nearly 1,000,000 pounds! You are going to need more than just your foot to get something like that to slow down.
This is why aircraft braking systems are so intricate. Not only are there high-impact brakes for the wheels and tires, but there are also several other aircraft braking systems throughout the aircraft.
For example, The air brakes look like metal flaps that extend as you come in for a landing. This creates a larger surface area and more air resistance, allowing the plane to slow down well before it reaches the runway. Once the aircraft touches down, the ground brakes kick in to help out the air brakes until you come to a complete stop.
Aircraft Wheels & Tires | Rolling Along the Runway
Braking systems wouldn’t mean much without wheels and tires. It would also be pretty hard to get to the runway by scraping an airplane across the concrete. These components offer similar functionality to the ones in your car, but their design is significantly more advanced.
Aircraft wheels feature inboard and outboard halves that make up the full system. The inboard half is the more complex of the two, housing many components such as brake rotors and thermal plugs. The outboard half functions as a cap to seal everything in. These are often designed with aluminum or magnesium to maintain durability while reducing overall weight.
As for tires, airplanes use a special type of conductive rubber. Landings create an extreme amount of friction, which generates heat and electricity. This conductive rubber prevents these elements from damaging both electrical and mechanical components throughout the landing gear.
Without these specialized wheels and tires, your flight to Cancun probably wouldn’t go so well. This is why we rely on aerospace manufacturers to develop reliable landing gear systems.
Steering Systems | Make a Left at That Cloud
So, we have wheels and brakes, but now we have to get to our spot on the runway. This is where the steering systems come in. Without steering, a plane could only go in a straight line on the ground, and that isn’t exactly convenient.
Airplane steering on the ground is particularly interesting because pilots use their feet to change directions. While counterintuitive to the untrained eye, the rudder pedals allow pilots to turn the nose wheel and taxi the plane to and from the runway. These pedals are also used to adjust the yaw of the plane during flight.
The control wheel or the “yoke” only comes in handy when you are in the air. However, it is still a critical part of the landing gear system. The control wheel actively controls the position of the plane body as it approaches the ground and keeps the plane level for a safe, even landing.
Actuators | Setting Things in Motion
Actuators are not exclusive to landing gear systems. In fact, they are a critical part of many systems throughout aircraft and many other vehicles. But what is an actuator?
Actuators are devices that receive incoming control signals and turn them into some form of mechanical movement. From doors to brakes to deicing valves, actuators act as an advanced network that allows pilots to control countless different systems from the cockpit.
For landing gear, actuators can engage the brakes, control steering, and deploy or contract the landing gear altogether. Without them, you would need a person to perform each task or maybe a system of hyper-intelligent mice. Either way, you would not be able to land a commercial airline safely.
These are just four of the essential systems involved with aircraft landing gear. Within each system, there are countless smaller pieces and parts that work together to make airplanes work properly. There are many more things to learn about aerospace components, so go out there and research to your heart’s content or ask your local aerospace engineer for more information.
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