Blog How Do Air Brakes Help Slow Down Airplan..

How Do Air Brakes Help Slow Down Airplanes In Flight?

Most commercial airplanes reach speeds of about 550 to 580 mph while cruising through the air, but they must drop to about 150-165 mph before they can safely land. To slow down effectively, most airplanes feature a braking system which consists of both air brakes for slowing in the air, and landing gear brakes for coming to a stop on the ground. By engaging the air brakes, pilots can increase drag, decreasing their overall speed. Understanding the working of these brakes can add some clarity to a concept that is less often talked about than the achievement of flight.

Overview of Air Brakes

Air brakes work by increasing drag to slow the aircraft without seriously affecting lift. They have been around for nearly a century, with the first versions consisting of mechanical wing flaps. These flaps could be controlled by pulling the appropriate lever in the cockpit. Air brakes have gone through many developments since, but they still rely on the same concept. In order to fly, planes must overcome drag by producing lift using the specialized shape of their wings. As such, when they need to slow and come to a stop on land, the flaps on the wings will do the opposite, affecting the airflow in a way to increase drag.

How Air Brakes Work

Air brakes work essentially by expanding to create more drag. They are spoiler-like flight control surfaces that are usually found on the wings, and will either expand out above or below them. Most planes have just one brake per wing, but both are initiated together to keep the plane stable while it slows. When engaged, the brakes will expand vertically, which reduces the aerodynamic properties of the wings. As the air brakes expand, they consume space above and/or below the wings as a result. Then, the wings become less smooth and aerodynamic, providing more surface for the airstream to collide with, creating drag. The air brakes are designed to slow the plane while minimizing their impact on lift, though it will still be affected.

Air Brakes vs Landing Gear Brakes

In addition to airbrakes, many planes also have landing gear brakes. Rather than slowing the plane in air, the landing gear brakes work to halt the airplane on the ground. Working similarly to automotive brakes, when the brakes are triggered, they will press against the wheels, adding friction until they come to a full stop. Usually, when an airliner lands, it will still be moving in excess of 100 mph, so these brakes must be very powerful and often work in conjunction with a long runway to provide enough time for the vessel to slow effectively.


Air brakes are an essential part of aircraft that safely counteract the normally aerodynamic shape of the wings to increase drag and slow forward speed enough to effectively touch down on land. Here, on ASAP Distribution, we offer an array of air brake and landing gear parts at the top of their class, alongside other quality aircraft parts. We are proudly an AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B accredited enterprise, meaning that we go to great lengths to uphold a high standard of service and quality for our customers. If you are currently on the search for reliable aviation components, we invite you to browse our online catalog of available products and make use of our Instant RFQ service to receive competitive quotes for your comparisons. Our team of experts are available 24/7x365 to answer customer inquiries and requests and will reply to RFQ forms in just 15 minutes or less!


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