How to Upgrade Your ATR 72 Carbon Brakes?

You may not need aircraft brakes to take off, but you certainly can’t take off without them. The ATR 72 has recently posed challenges for operators in acquiring adequate carbon brakes. Options for ATR 72 brakes are limited and expensive – and the only choice.

How did this situation arise, and what factors should you consider before making an expensive purchase? Keep reading to find out.

How to Upgrade Your ATR 72 Carbon Brakes (worker looking at ATR aircraft)

The ATR 72 Carbon Brake Issue

ATR 72 aircraft previously relied on carbon brakes originally manufactured by Dunlop Aviation until Meggitt bought Dunlop and later discontinued the carbon heat stacks for those brakes. Meggitt and Safran are now the only companies offering carbon brakes approved for ATR 72 aircraft.

Conversions from the Dunlop brake to either Meggitt or Safran brakes are expensive because both the brakes and the main wheels need to be replaced. (Aircraft brakes have a keyway into which the wheels fit. Wheels will not fit correctly if the brakes are from a different manufacturer.) 

Further, cheaper options, such as obtaining partially used brakes on the resale market, are becoming scarce. 

When Will This Become a Problem?

The ATR 72 carbon brake issue is a problem now. ATR published a retrofit information letter in 2017, announcing the conversion to the new Meggitt or Safran brake as the solution to the obsolete Dunlop brake. 

What might have been a gradual phasing into the new brake was significantly accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ATR 72 became a popular choice for freight because it could be converted quickly and cheaply for cargo. When regional air service resumed, the ATR 72 was one of the aircraft commonly used for passenger flights. The increased use of the ATR 72 resulted in high usage of the brakes.

Whom Will It Affect?

Any operator flying ATR 72 aircraft with older Dunlop brakes will have to switch to either Meggitt or Safran brakes. (If you are leasing an ATR aircraft, check your contract with the aircraft owner to determine whether you or the owner is responsible for upgrading the brakes.) 

What are the Available Options for ATR 72 Carbon Brakes?

Conversion of Dunlop Aviation Brakes to Meggitt Brakes

Meggitt works with the ATR Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). The first of two options available through Meggitt is a modification kit used to convert Dunlop main wheels and brakes to Meggitt (P/N 90010199), in accordance with a Meggitt Service Bulletin. (Different Dunlop brake types require either a partial or full conversion.)

Replacement with the New Meggitt Brakes

The second option available through Meggitt and via an ATR Service Bulletin is to completely replace the existing Dunlop main wheels and brakes with the new Meggitt wheels and brakes. Improvements have been made to the Meggitt brake (P/N 90010199) over the Dunlop brake, including a new brake housing axle, a stronger heat stack using their NuCarb® carbon material, and a one-piece torque tube. 

Conversion of Dunlop Aviation Brakes to Safran Landing Systems

Safran offers the only alternate for the Dunlop/Meggitt ATR 72 brakes. Safran’s wheels (P/N C20586120) and brakes (P/N C20585712) are comparable to Meggitt’s in quality, performance, and price. Choosing one supplier over the other will be based on the availability of parts, the operator’s preference, and convenience (for instance, if the operator uses Safran for their other aircraft, they may choose to have the same supplier for the rest of their fleet).

ATR 72 Carbon Brake
ATR 72 Carbon Brake

Should You Invest in New ATR 72 Carbon Brakes?

Replacing your existing brakes and main wheels with either Meggitt or Safran can range in price from $165,000 to $190,000, which does not account for labor and downtime.

Consider the following questions before committing to the expense.

How many more years will the aircraft be in use?

If you plan on retiring your ATR 72 in the next few years, investing in new brakes for that aircraft may not be beneficial. You would need to have the aircraft for a minimum of 3 years (approximately 2,000 landings) to receive a return on your investment.

Are there ATR carbon brakes available through teardown or resell?

Sometimes brakes are removed from ATR aircraft that still have some life remaining and sold, either through teardowns or because the operators have spares they no longer need. Although this option may be less costly than purchasing new brakes, it is only a temporary solution. (This may benefit someone who will only operate their ATR 72 for a short time before retiring the aircraft.).

Do you have spare brakes on hand?

Carbon brakes wear at different rates. For instance, one brake may need to be replaced while the other brakes still have some life remaining. If all brakes were replaced with one of the new options, the removed brakes that are still usable could be used as spares. Alternatively, they could be sold to help pay for the new brakes.

Are you looking to purchase or lease an ATR 72?

If you want to purchase or lease an ATR 72 for your operation, identify what brakes are on the aircraft. If the aircraft requires one of the new options of wheels and brakes, the price should reflect this. Alternatively, you may have an agreement in place to cover the pending modification. 

How to Prolong the Life of Your ATR 72 Carbon Brakes?

The most wear on your carbon brakes (79%) occurs during taxi out as opposed to landings (19%) and taxi in (2%), according to Aircraft Braking Systems (ABS) Corporation. Wear on brakes decreases when brakes are warmer (after being in operation). To prolong the life of your brakes, some operating procedures can be performed during taxiing and landings.

  • Avoid riding the brakes
  • Perform taxi-out stop events at a higher speed
  • Reduce the number of taxi-out stop events
  • Use negative propellor pitch and the full length of the runway for landing 

While these procedures will help extend your brakes’ life, the brakes will still need to be upgraded before the carbon wears down to unsafe levels (approximately 3-5%). Once you have determined whether it is worth investing in new brakes, it’s time for your organization’s finance department to budget for the upgrade.

Remember, whatever goes up must come down, and you want reliable brakes when you touch the ground. 

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