Boeing’s Takeoff Torture Test

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What happens when you slam on the brakes on a fully loaded Boeing 747-8 at 200 mph with the brake pads worn to bare metal? Not much, it turns out, and that’s a good thing. Boeing has released an interesting video of an example of the kind of torture their test planes go through. In this case, the occasion was a worst-case-scenario, maximum-performance rejected takeoff.

With the tanks topped off and the jumbo jet at its all-up weight of 975,000 pounds, the idea was to accelerate to rotation speed and then hit the binders. Just for fun, the test also simulated grotesquely poor maintenance by shaving all the brake material from the pads for a metal-on-metal screeching stop. The aircraft actually beat the predicted stopping distance and, with wheels glowing red and smoke pouring off the gear, the crew and engineers waited an agonizing five minutes to simulate a worst-case response by airport firefighters, who were finally able to quench the blazing hot equipment. Other than parts intentionally sacrificed, the test aircraft was none the worse for wear and returned to the program shortly after.