December 2013 - Page 2 Aviation Articles

Brake Wear and Unknown Consequences

It doesn’t pay off to push the limits

strong> Brian McKenzie
Elliott Aviation Accessory Shop Manager

Although it can get tempting to push the limits of your brakes, regular maintenance can save you a lot of money in the long run. Brakes can often get neglected and the lower the life, the faster the wear. This is especially true when you are close to 10% of your brake wear remaining. The reason being is that when you approach 10%, your brakes deteriorate at a much faster rate than before due to increased heat. This can lead to unusual wear, cracking and warping that could significantly increase your cost of overhaul. If your structural components get damaged, the increased cost for overhaul could be as much as 50% and if you get in a beyond economical repair situation, you will have to replace the entire core.


When maintaining brakes, many times an aircraft operator’s focus is on heat packs and they are the only components that get attention. During a brake overhaul, however, not only are the heat pack components changed but the O-rings are changed as well. The brake housing is inspected for cracks and corrosion and treated with a new paint job. Given that the heat pack components are the bulk of the cost of a brake overhaul, addressing the other components regularly will not only extend the life of the brake but keep down future cost.

Environmental factors to note that tend to accelerate wear include salt and sand. While salt accelerates wear and causes corrosion, sand will cause uneven wear in your brakes and limit their life. Also, if you have any drag on your brakes during takeoff they can warp due to extreme temperature changes in such a small amount of time.

In addition to inspection during an overhaul, there are several best practices you can do yourself that will help extend the life of your brakes. First and foremost, make sure you are always checking for leaks. If you happen to see hydraulic fluid around your landing gear in the hangar, make sure to have your lines inspected right away. Hydraulic fluid can rapidly break down all non-metallic components of your brake assembly and addressing the leak early can save you greater repairs later. Also, check your wear indicator. Each aircraft manual will have a section that will show you how to do this. It’s quick and easy and will help you better understand how much life you have left in the brakes. You can also easily check the paint on the housing itself to see what kind of condition it is in. A good paint job will help to prevent unnecessary corrosion to components.

Brian McKenzie started with Elliott Aviation in 2007 as a Quality Control Inspector and led the development of Elliott Aviation’s Accessory Shop in 2011. He received his A&P in 2004, IA in 2009 and ASNT NDT Level III in 2010. Brian started his career in the US Navy where he was part of the fixed wing and rotor wing maintenance and aircrew. He has maintained airframes and components on a diverse number of aircraft including Beechcraft products, Gulfstreams, Citations, Falcons and helicopters. Brian has also worked for Aero Air, Evergreen International, Flightcraft and Jet Services Inc.

Elliott Aviation is a second-generation, family-owned business aviation company offering a complete menu of high quality products and services including aircraft sales, avionics service & installations, aircraft maintenance, accessory repair & overhaul, paint and interior, charter and aircraft management. Serving the business aviation industry nationally and internationally, they have facilities in Moline, IL, Des Moines, IA, and Minneapolis, MN. The company is a member of the Pinnacle Air Network, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), National Air Transportation Association (NATA), and National Aircraft Resale Association (NARA).

Why Did The FAA Send Me A Request For Re-Examination?

As you may know, if the FAA discovers evidence that leads it to reasonably question an airman’s qualifications to exercise the privileges of the airman’s certificate, the FAA may issue a "request for re-examination." The "evidence" is usually a situation or circumstances involving the airman and his or her operation of an aircraft. And, unfortunately for airmen, it doesn't take much for the FAA to have a reasonable basis for requesting the re-examination. As long as the FAA can show that an airman's lack of competence or qualification was a factor in causing the situation, then the request will be considered reasonable.

So, what types of situations may result in a request for re-examination? Here are a few, in no particular order:

  1. Running out of fuel.

  2. Landing with the gear up.

  3. Landing or taking off in a manner that results in damage to your aircraft (e.g. prop strike, tail strike, scraping a wingtip on the ground, striking runway lights etc.).

  4. Continuing a VFR flight into IMC.

  5. Getting caught on top of an overcast layer of clouds when you are not instrument rated or equipped.

  6. Taking off or landing on a runway at a tower controlled airport when you have not received take-off or landing clearance.

  7. Taking off from or landing on a taxiway.
  8. Getting into an accident with your aircraft.

  9. Getting caught operating your aircraft over gross.

  10. Landing at the wrong airport.

  11. Entering Class B, C or D airspace without first establishing communications with ATC controlling the airspace.

  12. Colliding with another aircraft in flight, or on the ground.

  13. Operating an aircraft on a flight without appropriate or current charts necessary for that flight.

This is only a partial list of some of the more obvious situations that may trigger a request for re-examination of an airman by the FAA. The list can, and does, go on.

Hopefully this will never happen to you. But if it does, it isn't the end of the world. Pilots survive, and even learn from, requests for re-examination all the time. For more information and tips on responding to requests for re-examination, please read my article: The 709 Ride.

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