What Are Flight Control Surfaces?

Aircraft operate on the principles of aerodynamics and flow, relying on the way in which air moves across their airfoil surfaces to maintain lift for flight. While engines, wings, stabilizers, and other major aircraft parts are essential for flight, the finer maneuvering that enables increased flight management is made possible through the use of flight control surfaces. Flight control surfaces are adjustable areas of an aircraft, all of which are governed by the pilot in the cockpit for affecting speed, trajectory, or altitude.

For modern aircraft, primary and secondary flight control surfaces are present, each serving their own roles in standard operations. Primary flight surfaces are the most important of the two, regularly finding use during takeoff and landing operations. Secondary flight control surfaces, meanwhile, are in place to enhance the abilities of primary flight control surfaces as supplemental devices. For their types, primary control surfaces include ailerons, elevators, and the rudder. On the other hand, secondary flight control systems consist of spoilers, flaps, slats, and air brakes.

Elevators most often come in pairs, their placement being on the trailing edge of each fixed horizontal stabilizer half. By adjusting the elevator during flight, pilots can raise and lower the aircraft along its transverse axis. Elevators may be controlled manually or through an autopilot system, the former being executed with the use of a control column or stick. When moving the control forward, the elevator will begin to deflect downward, causing lift to increase on the tail surface. Moving the control backward, on the other hand, causes the opposite effect.

For executing yaw movements, pilots rely on the rudder which allows the aircraft to adjust along its horizontal axis. While allowing for the aircraft to yaw, the rudder is not relied on for directly steering the aircraft. Instead, the rudder ensures that the aircraft can overcome any adverse yaw that comes about as a result of turning. Furthermore, rudders also can be used during the instance of an engine failure for quad jets. Generally, the rudder is placed on the vertical stabilizer or the tail fin. To manage the rudders, pilots may operate foot pedals that are present in the cockpit.

The ailerons are useful for producing roll, that of which is carried out by tilting the plane from one side to the other along its longitudinal axis. Situated at the outward edges of aircraft wings, the ailerons are adjusted in opposite directions to allow for the plane’s position to adjust. The opposing movements of the ailerons cause one wing to generate an increased amount of lift as compared to the other, resulting in a roll.

Flaps are similar to ailerons, albeit being closer to the fuselage. When operated, the flaps adjust wing shapes so that lift or drag may be increased as needed. Oftentimes, trailing edge flaps will be placed in a way that they move outwards from the back of the wing. Meanwhile, leading-edge flaps move out and forward from the front of the wing. Slats and slots are also present on the wing, extending from the front to adjust drag and lift for takeoff and landing. Slots typically come in the form of openings between flap segments.

For slowing the aircraft, spoilers and air brake equipment are employed. Relied on during the approach and after landing, spoilers cut down on lift. Typically, spoilers come in the form of small panels that are hinged from the upper surface of the wing. Spoilers are symmetrically deployed on each side of the aircraft and can serve as brakes.

With the use of primary and secondary flight control surfaces, pilots can best manage their aircraft for more efficient and safe operations. At Fulfilment by ASAP, we are leading distributors of flight control surface parts, offering competitive pricing and rapid lead-times on highly sought-after items that have been sourced from leading global manufacturers that we trust. Take the time to explore our vast offerings, and our team is always on standby 24/7x365 to assist you through the purchasing process as necessary. Get started today and see why customers choose to steadily rely on Fulfilment by ASAP for all their operational requirements.


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