An introduction to the means by which a pilot controls the direction and attitude of a commercial airplane during flight.

Boeing 747 on final-approach with flaps deployed
Photo: Getty Images

As a passenger, do you ever look out of the window and wonder what all those moving things on the wing are actually doing? Slats slide forward and back, flaps are lifted and then shut… what’s it all about?

Those devices are just one part of the flight controls onboard any commercial airliner, and they are, in fact, the secondary controls, designed to improve aircraft performance characteristics. The primary flight controls, the ones that are essential to the safe control of the plane, are rarely seen in action by passengers, and that’s because they’re on the tail.

Elevators, stabilizers, rudders… all these things are also working to keep the airplane steady and balanced, and to guide it on its course to your destination. Our in-house pilot, Mohammed Anas Maaz, has put together a series of guides to lead you through the different types of flight controls, how they work, and how technology is making it easier and safer to control commercial aircraft.

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A LATAM Boeing 767-300ER landing in Mexico City

Photo: Guillermo Quiroz Martínez via @gquimar .

  • An Introduction To Flight Controls

    In almost all aircraft, the flight controls are movable aerodynamic surfaces attached to a main lifting body. When the moving part or the surface is moved, the aerodynamic characteristic of the main surface is changed which allows the aircraft to be maneuvered by the pilot.

    An Introduction To Flight Controls

  • How Are Flight Controls Moved?

    In this piece, we will focus on how the flight controls are moved, how the hinge moments can be reduced, and how trimming of flight controls works.

    Boeing MAX 10 Flight Deck

    How Are Flight Controls Moved?

  • A Look At The Fly By Wire Control System

    The fly-by-wire system has been a revolution in flight control systems design and is a feature found in many aircraft that are being designed today. 

    A Look At The Fly By Wire Control System


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