Flying Tip: Test the brakes

A CRJ-200 skids off the runway

One of the marks of being a mindful pilot is to limit wear and tear on the airplane as much as possible. That includes little habits like keeping the lights off when they aren’t needed and keeping braking to a minimum. That’s part of the reason flight instructors harp on aerodynamic braking so much.

With that in mind, suppose you’re landing on JFK’s runway 31R, a 10,00 foot long runway. When are you going to get on the brakes?

If you’re in a Cessna 152, the answer is probably never. But what about those of you flying turboprops and small jets? The CRJ-200 will slow down to about 40 knots without brakes or thrust reversers on a 9000 foot long runway – just ask an Memphis based CRJ pilot about the joy of hearing “cleared to land 27, roll to the end.” But you’ll still need a little touch of the brakes to make the turn-off right at the end. But what if the brakes didn’t work?

For this reason, I’ve adopted the practice of testing the brakes early in the landing roll. I’d rather know sooner than later so I have time to do something about it — full reverse thrust to a full-stop in the RJ. I just tap the brakes lightly – just enough to know I’ve got them.

Keep in mind that this tip is geared towards the professional pilot. If you try to test the brakes at high-speed in a Piper Cherokee, you’ll probably find some bald spots on the tire before long.

I wish I could take credit for this flying tip, but it comes Dick Karl’s excellent Flying Magazine column.

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About the author
Pat Flannigan is a professional pilot and aviation blogger. He has been flying for fifteen years and is currently working as an airline pilot in the United States.

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