Coordinating Controls

Coordinating Controls

That's how the aircraft is controlled. It might help understanding to think of an airplane with three axes (pronounced AK-sees) or pivot points around which it can rotate. One of the axes goes through the wings, called the lateral axis of pitch; the tail goes up and the nose goes down around (or vice versa) around this axis. The longitudinal axis of roll allows one wing to go up and the other down (or vice versa). Finally, the vertical axis of yaw is the pivot point around which the tail goes one way and the nose goes the opposite way. To relate these axes to the discussion, think of them in this way:

Axes of rotation: pitch, roll, and yaw
  • Pitch is controlled by the elevator through the in-out movement of the yoke or stick.
  • Roll is controlled by the ailerons through the left-right movement of the yoke or stick.
  • Yaw is controlled by the rudder through the left and right rudder pedals.

In the real world of flying you will be coordinating two or more flight controls to make the plane do what you want it to do. For example, if you want to make the plane climb you will add power (throttle) and pitch or move the nose up (pull back on the yoke to move the elevators). The real trick to flying is making coordinated changes on flight controls. Too much power or too little pitch will make the plane do things other than what you want it to do. Your job as a student pilot is to learn how to coordinate flight controls to get the results you want.

Pitch and bank control

Many aircraft require coordinated use of ailerons and rudder to make smooth turn. For some models the rule is: Anytime you move the ailerons you should be moving the rudder on the same side (right aileron and right rudder, for example). The exception is during a crosswind takeoff or landing when opposite rudder (right aileron and left rudder) would be used.

Knowing what you now know about the control surfaces of an aircraft, you can see that a change in the wind over the wings and tail changes how the controls will respond. If you're flying fast and pull back on the yoke or stick, for example, the plane will quickly respond to small motion of the yoke or stick. However, if you are flying slow, such as when you are landing, it will take more movement of the yoke or stick to get the same result. That's because there's less wind over the control surfaces. It makes sense.

Aircraft have something that cars don't: trim control. If you're flying straight and level you can adjust the elevator trim control so that less forward or back pressure is required on the yoke or stick to hold the aircraft in level flight. Elevator trim is a separate control from the yoke and rudder pedals. Trim control stabilizes the aircraft and makes flying much easier. Aircraft trim control balances the various forces on the aircraft.