AIRCRAFT CONTROL SYSTEMS
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A conventional fixed-wing aircraft flight control system (AFCS) consists of flight control surfaces, the respective cockpit controls, connecting linkages, and the necessary operating mechanisms to control an aircraft's direction in flight. Aircraft engine controls are also considered as flight controls as they change speed.
The fundamentals of aircraft controls are explained in flight dynamics. This article centers on the operating mechanisms of the flight controls. The basic system in use on aircraft first appeared in a readily recognizable form as early as April 1908, on Louis Blériot's Blériot VIII pioneer-era monoplane design.
The control yokes also vary greatly amongst aircraft. There are yokes where roll is controlled by rotating the yoke clockwise/counterclockwise (like steering a car) and pitch is controlled by moving the control column towards or away from the pilot, but in others the pitch is controlled by sliding the yoke into and out of the instrument panel (like most Cessnas, such as the 152 and 172), and in some the roll is controlled by sliding the whole yoke to the left and right (like the Cessna 162). Centre sticks also vary between aircraft. Some are directly connected to the control surfaces using cables, others (fly-by-wire airplanes) have a computer in between which then controls the electrical actuators.
Even when an aircraft uses variant flight control surfaces such as a V-tail ruddervator, flaperons, or elevons, to avoid pilot confusion the aircraft's flight control system will still be designed so that the stick or yoke controls pitch and roll conventionally, as will the rudder pedals for yaw. The basic pattern for modern flight controls was pioneered by French aviation figure Robert Esnault-Pelterie, with fellow French aviator Louis Blériot popularizing Esnault-Pelterie's control format initially on Louis' Blériot VIII monoplane in April 1908, and standardizing the format on the July 1909 Channel-crossing Blériot XI. Flight control has long been taught in such fashion for many decades, as popularized in ab initio instructional books such as the 1944 work Stick and Rudder.
In some aircraft, the control surfaces are not manipulated with a linkage. In ultralight aircraft and motorized hang gliders, for example, there is no mechanism at all. Instead, the pilot just grabs the lifting surface by hand (using a rigid frame that hangs from its underside) and moves it.
In addition to the primary flight controls for roll, pitch, and yaw, there are often secondary controls available to give the pilot finer control over flight or to ease the workload. The most commonly available control is a wheel or other device to control elevator trim, so that the pilot does not have to maintain constant backward or forward pressure to hold a specific pitch attitude (other types of trim, for rudder and ailerons, are common on larger aircraft but may also appear on smaller ones). Many aircraft have wing flaps, controlled by a switch or a mechanical lever or in some cases are fully automatic by computer control, which alter the shape of the wing for improved control at the slower speeds used for take-off and landing. Other secondary flight control systems may include slats, spoilers, air brakes and variable-sweep wings.
Mechanical or manually operated flight control systems are the most basic method of controlling an aircraft. They were used in early aircraft and are currently used in small aircraft where the aerodynamic forces are not excessive. Very early aircraft, such as the Wright Flyer I, Blériot XI and Fokker Eindecker used a system of wing warping where no conventionally hinged control surfaces were used on the wing, and sometimes not even for pitch control as on the Wright Flyer I and original versions of the 1909 Etrich Taube, which only had a hinged/pivoting rudder in addition to the warping-operated pitch and roll controls. A manual flight control system uses a collection of mechan