Thrust reversers, found on almost all jetliners1 and on the larger propliners, redirect engine thrust forwards, helping to slow the aircraft in the event of a landing or rejected takeoff.2 This takes some of the load off the aircraft’s wheelbrakes, reducing brakepad wear and tyre overheating, and considerably increases the total braking force available, allowing the aircraft to stop in a shorter distance than it otherwise would...3
...unless, that is, your aircraft is an A380, in which case, your reversers (all two of them), although they do reduce brake wear, apparently do not decrease the aircraft’s stopping distance (my emphasis):
The two reversers do help slow the A380—but not by much. In fact, unlike the thrust reversers on most airliners, including the Boeing 747 jumbo, they do not stop the aircraft in a shorter distance than brakes and spoilers alone. They do, however, take some of the strain off the brakes and are useful if water or snow makes the runway slippery.
How is this possible? Any increase in available braking force should shorten the aircraft’s stopping distance (even if only by a small amount), so, assuming that the A380’s reversers produce a nonzero amount of braking force, the stopping distance for a given A380 at a given weight on a given runway under given conditions using maximum wheelbraking, maximum aerobraking, and maximum reverse should still be less than the stopping distance for said A380 at said weight on said runway under said conditions using maximum wheelbraking and maximum aerobraking, but no reverse thrust.
Yet, apparently, it isn’t.
Would someone like to explain this?
2: A few jetliners, such as the DC-8, Il-62, and Concorde, can also use reverse thrust in flight, to steepen the aircraft’s descent angle without increasing its speed; in essence, the reversers are used as blown airbrakes.
3: This is especially important when wheelbrake effectiveness is degraded, due to, for instance, landing on a contaminated runway4 (which severely limits the amount of force that can be applied to the wheelbrakes without them locking up), with inoperative spoilers (which severely decreases the amount of weight carried by the wheels, and, thus, the amount by which their brakes can slow the aircraft), with one or more blown tyres (which renders the brakes on those wheel(s) useless for slowing the aircraft), overweight (which forces the aircraft to land at a much higher speed, where the coefficient of friction between the tyres and the runway is much lower than at lower speeds), with inoperative flaps and/or slats (ditto), with accreted ice and/or wing-leading-edge damage (ditto numero dos), with inoperative antiskid (which requires that the pilot(s) brake manually, and severely limit the amount of braking force [especially at high speeds] to prevent the wheels from locking up), with one or more inoperative wheelbrakes (for obvious reasons), numerous other things that I haven’t thought of, or any combination of the above.
4: For instance, one that is flooded (hopefully with water, not Jet A-1) or covered in (usually water) ice.