Monday, September 10, 2007


Aircraft flight control systems are classified as primary and secondary. The primary control systems consist of those that are required to safely control an airplane during flight. These include the ailerons, elevator (or stabilizer), and rudder. Secondary control systems improve the performance characteristics of the airplane, or relieve the pilot of excessive control forces. Examples of secondary control systems are wing flaps and trim systems.

Airplane control systems are carefully designed to provide a natural feel, and at the same time, allow adequate responsiveness to control inputs. At low airspeeds, the controls usually feel soft and sluggish, and the airplane responds slowly to control applications. At high speeds, the controls feel firm and the response is more rapid.

Movement of any of the three primary flight control surfaces changes the airflow and pressure distribution over and around the airfoil. These changes affect the lift and drags produced by the airfoil/control surface combination, and allow a pilot to control the airplane about its three axes of rotation.

Design features limit the amount of deflection of flight control surfaces. For example, control-stop mechanisms may be incorporated into the flight controls or movement of the control column and/or rudder pedals may be limited. The purpose of these design limits is to prevent the pilot from inadvertently over controlling and over stressing the aircraft during normal maneuvers.

A properly designed airplane should be stable and easily controlled during maneuvering. Control surface inputs cause movement about the three axes of rotation. The types of stability an airplane exhibits also relate to the three axes of rotation.

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