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air brake

It’s name notwithstanding, an air brake is not a device for stopping air. Instead, it is a brake that is operated with compressed air.

I don’t know how many types of vehicles use air brakes, but I know freight trains do. I know this because only a few months before I wrote this the headlines were filled with news of a rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Québec, Canada. I don’t know if conclusive answers have been found yet, but speculation at the time was that the engineer had not set sufficient air brakes to hold the train in placed when he parked it on a rise of land.

An air brake can also be something that is projected into the air to slow down an aircraft. My dictionary doesn’t say, but I think it’s only military type planes use air brakes of this kind.

I’ve never seen a commercial aircraft dragging a parachute or other device to slow it down after coming in for a landing. Although, after a flight in which people around me have been loud and rude or in which the person in front of me sharply threw his or her seat back to as far from the full and upright position as it can get, ramming my computer into my gut in the process, I can think of someone I’d like to have dragging behind us.

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