Wednesday, September 12, 2007


The elevator controls pitch about the lateral axis. Like the ailerons on small airplanes, the elevator is connected to the control column in the cockpit by a series of mechanical linkages. Aft movement of the control column deflects the trailing edge of the elevator surface up. This is usually referred to as up elevator.

The up-elevator position decreases the camber of the elevator and creates a downward aerodynamic force, which is greater than the normal tail-down force that exists in straight-and-level flight. The overall effect causes the tail of the airplane to move down and the nose to pitch up. The pitching moment occurs about the center of gravity (CG). The strength of the pitching moment is determined by the distance between the CG and the horizontal tail surface, as well as by the aerodynamic effectiveness of the horizontal tail surface.

Moving the control column forward has the opposite effect. In this case, elevator camber increases, creating more lift (less tail-down force) on the horizontal stabilizer/elevator. This moves the tail upward and pitches the nose down. Again, the pitching moment occurs about the CG.

As mentioned earlier in the coverage on stability, power, thrust line, and the position of the horizontal tail surfaces on the empennage are factors in how effective the elevator is in controlling pitch. For example, the horizontal tail surfaces may be attached near the lower part of the vertical stabilizer, at the midpoint, or at the high point, as in the T-tail design.

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