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How a Plane is Controlled - Level 1

Control Surfaces

Real planes have segments called ailerons inserted in the wings and segments called rudders and elevators inserted respectively in the vertical fin and horizontal stabilizer. The pilot controls their position from the airplane cockpit. When the pilot moves them into the airstream, they cause the plane to react to air pressure.The pilot uses them to go right or left and also up and down.


An airplane in flight changes direction by movement around one or more of its three axes of rotation: lateral axis, vertical axis, and longitudinal axis. These axes are imaginary lines that run perpendicularly to each other through the exact weight center of the airplane.

The airplane's rotation around them is called pitch, roll, and yaw. The pilot guides the airplane by controlling pitch, roll, and yaw, and by use of the elevators, ailerons, and rudder.


Press to see Yaw Animation

Rudder rotates the airplane around vertical axis.


Press to see Roll Animation

Ailerons rotate the airplane around longitudinal axis.


Press to see Pitch Animation

Elevators rotate airplane around lateral axis.

To see how a paper airplane can be controlled then go to experiment 6.

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Updated: March 12, 2004