Flight Controls

Flight Control Systems Basics

Flight Controls

Flight controls refer to both the physical equipment and the software that operate a plane. Flight control surfaces include the control surfaces themselves, the cockpit instruments, connection links, and any other operating mechanisms required to manipulate an airplane's direction in flight. The control surfaces must be sturdy enough to withstand the stresses placed on them by turbulence, air resistance, changes in pressure, and thermal changes in the environment. Airplane engine controls, which are also flight controls, are usually thought of as separate flight controls because they control speed. This assumption is false, however, since every component of an engine also controls other parameters such as fuel mixture, ambient air temperature, accumulated oil and coolant temperature, ignition, throttle response, air speed, and more.


The three primary flight control surfaces that are most often installed in an airplane are the following: the main landing gear door (main gear deck controls), the main engine door (engine start deck controls), and the main aviation windshield. All three of these surfaces should be strongly attached to the aircraft structure, so that when one of these surfaces is damaged, it can be easily replaced. In addition, all three surfaces should be easily accessible, even if the aircraft is moving; for example, the main landing gear door should open easily with only the use of a small lanyard.


Another piece of aircraft flight control systems that should be installed in the aircraft is the aileron strut, or more commonly referred to as the trailing edge. These pieces of hardware are used along with the main aileron strut to help stabilize the airplane while it is in flight, as well as during flight, when the aircraft is in cruise mode. Most manufacturers recommend that only single pilot to operate the ailerons, although some airplanes do allow two pilots to operate the ailerons concurrently.


The most important part of the aircraft stability system is theileron strut. This piece of hardware is used to attach the main wings and control surfaces to the fuselage. If these pieces are not installed properly, then the whole stability system will be compromised. Although most modern airplanes include built-in ailerons, they can still be upgraded to secondary flight controls if additional protection is needed.


Aside from the ailerons, the secondary flight controls can also include spoilers, flaps, and landing gear extensions. The installation of these additional pieces requires careful consideration. While spoilers are generally considered safe when installed on a wide body type airplane, they can become a problem when added to a light weight aircraft. For this reason, it is usually best to leave the installation of spoilers to the professionals.


Landing gear extensions are commonly used on light sport aircraft such as dirt bikes and go karts. When added to primary flight controls, these pieces of hardware can effectively counter act drag effects from the airstrips. Flaps are often used to make sure that aircraft don't stall in flight, but on larger aircraft, they can be used to counter the loss of lift caused by engine stall flaps. Depending on your needs, your choice of stabilator and secondary control system will determine the best place to install them.


While many people choose to add spoilers to their aircraft in order to reduce air friction, they should be used sparingly. Most experienced airplane owners recommend that they be used in conjunction with primary flight controls and primary stability systems. Unless you have a true flying skills, you should avoid the use of spoilers as much as possible. They can be a great addition to an already good looking airplane. Unfortunately, the added visual appeal of a spoiler is usually not worth the risk of actually encountering a stall.


stall indicators are usually used to pilot the airplane during low airspeed and stall conditions. They come in two forms; analog and digital. An analog stall indicator uses a pointer to indicate the start of a stall condition. Digital stall indicators provide a more precise indication of low airspeed and stall conditions. They allow the pilot to more easily monitor fuel quantity or pressure, engine speed, horizontal and vertical position, along with engine speed and attitude.