What Are Aircraft Spoilers and Speed Brakes?

Both aircraft spoilers and speed brakes are important for a safe, controlled landing of an aircraft. Often, these two parts may be confused for each other for their operation as they are both utilized during landing procedures, despite both having different functionalities. As both component types are important for safe handling of an aircraft, it is important to be aware of their distinct operations. In this blog, we will discuss what aircraft spoilers and speed brakes are, and how they help an aircraft safely land.   

An aircraft speed brake, otherwise known as an air brake, is a flight control surface that is used during landing operations to increase drag or the aircraft angle of approach. Across all modern aircraft, speed brakes or spoilers with speed brake capabilities are present. Speed brakes are located along the fuselage of the aircraft, and they may be hydraulically actuated by pilot control. Speed brakes are often a single panel or pairs of panels that, once activated, extend into the airstream and increase drag. With increased drag, airspeed is reduced. This reduction in speed is not only useful for landing procedures, but also many other operations in which a slower speed is needed or desired.

Aircraft spoilers, on the other hand, are used to reduce lift of the aircraft rather than airspeed. Typically, spoilers are plates that are installed on the upper surface of aircraft wings and may be manually activated by the pilot, or automatically activated by the flight computer during certain procedures. When activated, the plate extends into the airflow and causes a portion of the wing it is placed on to stall, decreasing the amount of lift produced. This allows for the pilot to control the rate of descent, or roll, that the aircraft undergoes. While the rate of descent can be adjusted by pointing the aircraft nose downwards, the critical difference is that spoilers do not affect airspeed. Because of this, spoilers can be used to control the rate of descent and achieve a safer landing.

During the landing of an aircraft, ground spoilers are an important component that maximize the braking effects of wheels during touchdown. When ground spoilers are deployed, the lift from wings is dumped so that the entire weight of the aircraft is exerted onto the wheels for slowing down. As wheel brake efficiency depends on friction and weight, reducing lift is extremely beneficial for wheel brake operation. Often, ground spoilers are automatically activated by the flight computer when deployment criteria is met, though the pilot may manually operate them when conducting a rejected takeoff or after landing.

Despite their different functionalities, both speed brakes and spoilers are important for landing and reducing aircraft speed. They also benefit the operation of each other, an example being that the increased drag from the spoilers helps the reduced airspeed effects of the speed brakes. Sometimes, spoilers may be used in lieu of speed brakes, and these spoilers have the added functionality of speed brake components.

When it comes time to begin sourcing the spoiler aircraft speed brake components that you need for your next project or operation, ASAP Axis has you covered with everything you are searching for. ASAP Axis is owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, and we can help you find the aviation parts and components that you are searching for, new or obsolete. As a premier supplier of parts for the aerospace, civil aviation, and defense industries, we're always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7x365. ASAP Semiconductor is an FAA 0056B accredited and AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015 certified enterprise. For a quick and competitive quote, email us at sales@asapaxis.com or call us at +1-714-705-4780.


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