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What is the Aircraft Thrust Reverser?

As aircraft continue to increase in weight and reach higher airspeeds, the need for better stopping power is also on the rise. Nowadays, many modern planes are unable to fully rely on aircraft brakes to sufficiently slow down within a feasible and safe distance. To aid in this endeavor, aircraft thrust reversers are implemented to help stop the aircraft during the touchdown process. In general, the two main types of aircraft thrust reversers that are used are mechanical blockage and aerodynamic blockage types.

With a mechanical blockage type, a temporary obstruction is placed within the stream of exhaust gas, typically towards the rear of the nozzle. With this obstruction, the stream of exhaust gases are redirected backwards by either an inverted cone, clam shell, or half sphere. Mechanical blockage types are mostly implemented within turbofan engines that feature ducts, permitting the fan and core flow to mix within the nozzle before being expelled from the engine. With a clam shell door configuration, for example, doors swivel to prevent the standard outflow of exhaust gases, directing the gases forward so that the aircraft begins to slow. When not in use, clam shell doors retract so as to not mitigate the flow of gases during normal flight operations.

Aerodynamic blockage types are more common to turbofan engine aircraft that do not feature ducts. In these types, fan air is used to reduce aircraft speed. To do this, the aircraft thrust reverser contains a translating cowl, cascade vanes, and blocker doors that function to divert airflow to assist the aircraft brakes in stopping the vehicle efficiently. Within such turbofan engine aircraft, the fan accounts for about 80% of the thrust generated, thus it serves as the most efficient and optimal method for slowing down.

Reverse thrust is most optimal when used at a higher aircraft speed for two major reasons. For one, the amount of reverse thrust is increased alongside speed, and power that is produced at higher speeds is greater due to increased operational performance. Because of this, kinetic energy is reduced quicker while at a higher speed. To utilize the aircraft thrust reverse system most efficiently, it should be deployed as soon as possible once touchdown of the aircraft is made.

For a thrust reverser to be beneficial, it must not hinder the performance of the aircraft engine whether it is in use or not. Typically, the pilot may check upon the status of the aircraft thrust reverser system on the flight deck, and deploying them can be done from the same area. For the actuation of such systems, hydraulic or pneumatic power is utilized. To deploy and retract the aircraft thrust reverser system, aviation hardware such as flex drives, gearboxes, screwjacks, control valves, and other aviation parts are used. Due to their highly important function, as well as the various parts they are composed of, it is critical to ensure that routine maintenance and inspection of the aircraft thrust reverser system is conducted so that safety and operation is guaranteed.

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February 27, 2020

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