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What are Flight Control Surfaces?

One of the most interesting subjects in any aeronautical engineering course is that of flight mechanics where students learn bout the principles of flight. In this article, we will identify the main components on an aircraft that are responsible for manoeuvring and aircraft within flight, which are commonly referred to as flight control surfaces.

Flight control surfaces are simply physical devices that the pilot can control and adjust to change the roll, pitch, and yaw of an aircraft. These are terms that relate to movement around the three primary axes that define aircraft movement.

Figure 1: Aircraft Controls on 3 Axes
Figure 1: Aircraft Controls on 3 Axes

In figure 1, we can see that there are three primary axes which are the longitudinal axis, lateral axis, and vertical axis. Sometimes these can be referred to as x, y, and z axes.

  • Roll is the movement around the longitudinal axis. A positive roll involves lifting the left wing and lowering the right.

  • Pitch is rotation around the lateral axis and movement that results in an aircraft nose up is positive pitch.

  • Yaw is rotation around the vertical axis. Positive yaw is when the nose of the aircraft points to the right and the aircraft is said to be turning right

Aircraft Flight Control Surfaces