t’s great being able to get into an airplane and speed away to a new destination without a care in the world. But do you ever stop to think about how they work?

While it’s true that airplanes require an impressive network of complex systems, the basic principles behind flight control are fairly straightforward. Thus, they can be applied to all kinds of aircrafts from small to large.

How Does Aircraft Control Work?

Simply put, an aircraft is controlled by using a yoke, throttle and rudder pedals. A yoke, or aircraft control wheel, is an essential control onboard the airplane and is perhaps the one that pilots spend the most time using.

Axes of Rotation: Pitch, Roll, and Yaw

An airplane has three possible axes of rotation around which the plane can turn. Think of each axis as an imaginary line. The pitch line, or axis, runs from wing to wing, with the nose tilting up or down around it. The roll axis runs from nose to tail, with the wings spinning around it. The vertical axis is called yaw. When rotating along the vertical axis, the nose moves left to right, and the tail moves in opposite direction to the nose.
An airplane may rotate around one, two or all three axes simultaneously.

Airplane Controls: Yoke, Rudder and Throttle

Movement of the yoke signals either the elevators for up and down movement of the nose (pitch axis), or the ailerons, for side-to-side movement along the roll axis. This sideways movement along the roll axis is what causes the plane to bank in a specific direction.

The rudder is another important control for flying an airplane. The rudder’s primary purpose is to control yaw, which properly aligns the airplane during flight. By pushing rudder pedals located on the aircraft floor, the pilot causes the nose to move left or right, and the tail to move opposite the nose.

The throttle is essential for controlling your power. This control sets the desired power level and controls airflow rate delivered to the cylinders. Depending on the aircraft, there may be one throttle for each engine.

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