For an aircraft to traverse the atmosphere optimally and efficiently, it will take advantage of various flight control surfaces that enable pilots to govern flight attitude. Ailerons are a commonplace device for many aircraft, coming in the form of a hinged surface that is placed on the trailing edge of wings. Generally, pilots rely on ailerons to control the roll of an aircraft, and they are operated in pairs to change the flight path. To help you better understand the use and importance ailerons serve for flight operations, we will discuss their design and functionality further.
Ailerons are generally operated in pairs, one rising while the other lowers based on the input of the pilot. As ailerons are actuated, an increased amount of lift will be generated on one side while dumping lift on the other, allowing for a roll to be executed as the wings change position. Managing ailerons is also a fairly simplistic maneuver, as pilots simply turn the flight deck control wheel left or right to adjust positioning and deployment.
As a primary flight control surface, ailerons work alongside elevator and rudder controls to provide a pilot with the complete ability to manage the three axes of flight. While ailerons are used to execute rolling along the longitudinal axis, elevator controls allow the lateral axis to be manipulated as the aircraft’s nose is pitched up or down. As the final primary control surface, rudder control equipment permits the aircraft to be moved along the vertical axis as the nose adjusts left and right for yawing.
As stated before, ailerons have a direct effect on the amount of lift that acts on a wing. Typically, lift is determined based on the atmospheric pressure above and below the wing, and the design of the structure ensures that air moves faster on top than below. With increased speed, less pressure is induced on the top surface of the wing, causing the aircraft to be lifted up as a result. With these general properties of lift, the two ways in which a pilot can increase lift is to either fly faster or increase their angle of attack.
When discussing the angle of attack, one is referring to the angle present between the wing’s chord line and the relative wind. By increasing that angle, more lift will be produced. This principle is exactly what the ailerons serve to effect, asthey directly adjust the chord line during their actuation. As an aileron moves downward, the angle of attack will be increased, resulting in that area of the wing producing an increased amount of lift. As ailerons are specifically situated near the trailing edge of each wing, the extra lift created will cause the aircraft to begin twisting or rolling.
With any increase in the angle of attack, there will always be more drag as a byproduct. Since the angle of attack is only increased in one area of a single wing, forces will cause the nose of the aircraft to begin to shift away from the turn. As the shift is an undesirable effect, it is referred to as adverse yaw. To combat adverse yaw, specialized ailerons may be used, or the pilot may manage the rudder with the flight deck control wheel.
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