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I'm a student pilot, and I've built about 20 hours on a Cessna 172. I also have an old ankle injury that makes it hard to bend my left ankle, and I'll probably be getting an ankle fusion later this year. I know I won't be able to work the left brake with a fused ankle. Are there any good options for trainer aircraft with other kinds of brakes?

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    $\begingroup$ Can you use heel brakes? Or are you looking for hand brakes only? $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Sep 4 '20 at 4:49
  • $\begingroup$ Would heel brakes float your boat? Consider a Taylorcraft. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Sep 4 '20 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ I'd be willing to try heel brakes. Just need to find a flight school near me that would rent a plane with one. $\endgroup$ – Chris Sep 4 '20 at 19:27
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There are still many Ercoupes in the fleet that don't even have rudder pedals, never mind toe-brakes on the rudder pedals.

You may also want to consider arranging for a more commonly-available trainer (e.g. Cessna 152, Piper Tomahawk, Diamond DA20, etc.) to be equipped with hand-controls for braking. This is done for individuals who have any number of reasons that they can't operate the rudder pedals with their feet, such as paraplegia, deformity, etc.

See e.g. https://www.freedomintheair.org/hand-controls/, https://www.newmobility.com/2019/01/pilots-planes-hand-controls/, https://www.wired.com/2009/08/hand-control-airplanes/, https://abilitymagazine.com/hand-controls-for-flying/, etc.

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Russian/Soviet GA trainers Yak-18T and Yak-52 have a manual brake handle on the yoke/stick. The latter is quite common in the US, but being an aerobatic airplane, it may not be very suitable for your experience.

The Australian Jabiru light GA aircraft have a brake handle on the central post between the pilots.

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The 1964 Piper Cherokee that I rent has inoperative toe brakes. In order to stop the aircraft after landing, you have to slow down past the maximum taxiing speed using aerodynamic braking. Then, you use the parking handbrake to come to a complete stop.

I have never had to make an actual soft or short field landing with this aircraft. But, it would be challenging. Personally, I would avoid it. It might be even harder in a Cessna 172. I have not flown one with a handbrake as responsive as that Cherokee.

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    $\begingroup$ YIKES! Surprised that's even legal. What's the plan for an aborted takeoff? $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Sep 4 '20 at 5:31
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    $\begingroup$ @RalphJ - Well, the plane does not have an MEL or even an MMEL that I know of. Plus, the brakes still work. And, they are pretty responsive with plenty of feel. There is just no differential braking. $\endgroup$ – Dean F. Sep 4 '20 at 12:24
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    $\begingroup$ From what I've read, toe brakes on Cherokees were optional before the 1980s. According to page 7 of the POH, "The brakes are actuated by a hand lever and master cylinder, which is located below and behind the left center of the instrument sub-panel." houltonflyingclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/… $\endgroup$ – Chris Sep 4 '20 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ "the plane does not have an MEL" -- I don't think that's how it works. The MEL offers a more permissive way to deal with inoperative equipment, as I understand it. Lacking one, the airplane is unairworthy if any of the equipment required for certification is not operating as certified. One could get a ferry permit from the FSDO so that the airplane could be flown for repairs, but I doubt it's legal to operate on a regular basis with brakes that are inoperative. $\endgroup$ – Peter Duniho Sep 6 '20 at 2:33
  • $\begingroup$ @PeterDuniho - I guess that would really depend on the airworthiness certificate and original type certification data sheet. After all, it would be perfectly legal to fly day VFR with an inoperative DG, Attitude Indicator, or even radios as long as they are placarded INOP or removed, and notations are made in the aircraft’s logbooks. If it were unairworthy, I would think that the A&P would have to pull the aircraft out of service. In this case, the aircraft continues to get its Annual, 100-hour, and ADs cleared and up to date. $\endgroup$ – Dean F. Sep 6 '20 at 3:55

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