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Either of two kinds of braking systems. The first, used by trains, trucks, and buses, operates by a piston driven by compressed air from reservoirs connected to brake cylinders (seepiston and cylinder). When air pressure in the brake pipe is reduced, air is automatically admitted into the brake cylinder. The first practical air brake for railroads was invented in the 1860s by George Westinghouse. The second type, used by aircraft and race cars, consists of a flap or surface that can be mechanically projected into the airstream to increase the resistance of the vehicle to air and lower its speed.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on air brake, visit Britannica.com.