Aircraft Control Surfaces and How They Function

On fixed-wing aircraft, flight control surfaces are needed to regulate attitude and direction. Without these controls, the vehicle would not be capable of directional change or stable flight while in the air. Consisting of the ailerons, elevator, and rudder, these components make up what are known as the primary flight control surfaces. Though these components may differ depending on the model of aircraft, such aerodynamic devices can always be found regardless of the vehicle size. Within this blog, we will discuss the primary components making up the control surfaces of aircraft and how they individually function to provide control over pitch, roll, and yaw.


Put in place along the outer edge of each aircraft wing, ailerons serve the purpose of helping the vehicle perform turning motions. Allowing the aircraft to roll left or right while maintaining an angle of bank, ailerons work in opposite directions. Automatically actuated by the pilot when moving the directional stick, when one aileron goes up, it decreases lift on that wing and imposes directional change. In return, the aileron on the opposite wing remains down until the angle of bank needs to change once again. Depending on its size, larger aircraft can have up to two ailerons per wing, allowing for a greater area of control.


Controlled by flight pedals managed by the pilot, rudders are used to stabilize the adverse yaw experienced during turning. As a part of the empennage, rudders can be found along the outer edges of the vertical stabilizers. With mechanical linkages connected to the aircraft pedals, rudders move simultaneously with one another, following the timing of the compression or decompression of pedals. As a result, the aircraft nose can be moved along the x-axis and stabilized as needed.


Found along the tail structure at the back of an aircraft, an elevator is a component fixed to the horizontal stabilizer. Hinged along the back of the horizontal tail, the elevator is controlled through the yoke (stick) as directed by the pilot. When the yoke is pulled backward, the elevator moves in response, shifting upward and allowing the plane to rise in elevation. On the other hand, if the yoke is pushed forward, the elevators will go down and cause the aircraft to descend. 

Pitch, Roll, and Yaw

Knowing the basics of pitch, roll, and yaw is essential in understanding how aircraft control surfaces work. While aircraft are capable of moving along three points, those of which are pitch, roll, and yaw, each operates on their respective axes. While pitch correlates to rotational movements along the transverse axis, roll corresponds to shifts along the longitudinal axis. Meanwhile, yaw coincides with the movements along the vertical axis. As all aircraft move around these three points, for the vehicle to change path or remain directionally stable, control surfaces are utilized by the pilot. Coming in the form of the yoke and foot pedals, these components are necessary to operate control surfaces. 

When exposed to atmospheric conditions and continual use, it is inevitable that any part will decay over time. If you are on the lookout for a specific aircraft control surface and its related parts, look no further than Aviation Parts Circuit. We are your reliable source for various aircraft parts ranging from rudders to tail pieces, stabilizers, and more. Due to our quality control and export compliance, we operate with AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B certification and accreditation. If you would like to request a quote for your comparisons, you can submit an RFQ form as provided on our website. Upon receipt, a dedicated account manager will quickly review and respond with a personalized solution to your needs in just 15 minutes or less, 24/7x365.


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