Aircraft Motion
Physics of Aircraft
Lift
Drag
Weight and Thrust
Secondary Controls
Stability
Straight and Level
Climbing
Descending
Turning
Aircraft Design Features
The Stall
Practice Exam

Flight Controls

Since an aircraft can only move about the three axes, it has three primary flying controls – the elevator, ailerons and rudder.

The Elevator

Movement in pitch is controlled with the elevator, which is connected to the control column. Backwards movement of the control column deflects the elevator upwards. Airflow over the elevator is deflected, creating a downwards force on the tail. From the cockpit, you will see the aircraft pitch up to a higher nose attitude. Forward movement of the control column deflects the elevator downwards, creating an upwards force on the tail. In the cockpit, you will see the aircraft pitch down to a lower nose attitude.

The Ailerons

Movement in roll is controlled with the ailerons, which are also connected to the control column. Moving the control column to the left deflects the left aileron up and the right aileron down. Airflow over the left aileron creates a downwards force and airflow over the right aileron creates an upwards force. This causes the aircraft to roll to the left and enter a banked attitude.

Rotating the control column right causes the right aileron to move up and the left aileron to move down. The aircraft will roll to the right. The angle between the lateral axis (from wing tip to wing tip) and the horizon is called the angle of bank.

The phrase “the ailerons come up to meet the controls” can help you remember which way the control surfaces deflect. Move the control column right and the right aileron will come up to meet the controls, and vice versa.

The Rudder

Movement in yaw is controlled with the rudder, which is connected to the rudder pedals. Moving the right rudder pedal forward deflects the rudder to the right. Airflow over the rudder is deflected right, creating a force to the left on the tail. In the cockpit, you will see the aircraft yaw to the right.

Pushing the left pedal forwards will deflect the rudder to the left and create a force on the tail to the right. The pilot will see the nose move left as the aircraft yaws left.