How to Steer an Airplane
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How to Steer an Airplane

There is more to flying an aircraft than depending on wind currents. You have to manipulate the aircraft to do what you want it to do. ThatÂ’s what the rudder, the up and down tail fin, is for, and that is also what the ailerons are for

In the last couple of articles, we have discussed lift and we have discussed how planes and gliders stay in the air. This article will discuss how you steer the aircraft; in other words, we will be discussing how to pitch and roll an airplane so that you can maneuver the airplane in the way you want it to go. To move the airplane to the left or right, you must use Yaw. Yaw allows you to slice through the air to tip your plane. You have seen planes bank into a turn, right? They do this by putting the plane into yaw.

What happens to the plane when you put it into yaw? When you put the plane (or glider) in yaw position you are cutting through the current of air that you are flying in. The plane is pointing in a different directing than it is actually flying in. This allows for you to bank into a turn. In a plane you use the yoke to go into the yaw position, but in a glider you have a joystick that does the same thing. Besides the yoke or the joystick, you also have foot controls which allows you to manipulate the aircraft. 

There is more to flying an aircraft than depending on wind currents. You have to manipulate the aircraft to do what you want it to do. That’s what the rudder, the up and down tail fin, is for, and that is also what the ailerons are for. When you pitch the plane into a yaw position you are manipulating the rudder and the ailerons to change direction. The ailerons are flaps on the wings. You will position the flaps in opposite directions. One of the ailerons will be in an upward position while the other one is in a downward direction. This process is the same, whether you are flying a plane or a glider. The wings are built somewhat similarly, because you must be able to control your flight path.

Let’s talk a little bit more about the rudder: Why do we need a rudder? The rudder stabilizes the plane in the air. It compensates for the movements caused by the propeller. While the propeller is in motion, it creates a corkscrew type movement of air around the plane. You might think that the air just moves straight over the plane, but it doesn’t. A current of air, in corkscrew motion, is produced around the plane that would cause it to jostle back and forth, if it weren’t for the rudder to stabilize the plane.

I mentioned in earlier articles that the propeller pulls the airplane through the air. Most people don’t think of an airplane being pulled, but it is. The propeller slices through the air and washes the air over and around the plane in a sort of helix (corkscrew) motion. If you didn’t have a rudder, you wouldn’t be able to control the plane, and if you were able to stay in the air, the occupants wouldn’t appreciate being jostled around from side to side, because that is what would happen.

What do the ailerons do? The ailerons allow you to roll the plane from side to side. Your ailerons create yaw.  They work in opposition to each other when you bank into a turn. The upward aileron deflects the air up and over the wing while the downward aileron moves the air under it, so that the plane can rotate sideways. All the while you are maneuvering the plane by manipulating the ailerons; you are also keeping the plane steady with the rudder.

Flying a plane is as easy as driving a car, but you control each vehicle differently. You steer a car with the steering wheel and you control your road speed with your breaks. An airplane is different. You aren’t moving along a solid medium such as a roadway. You are traveling on air; thus, you need to manipulate the aircraft through the air to make the plane go where you want it to go.

The next article will discuss pre-flight checks to discover possible problems before you get into the air. If you have mechanical problems in an automobile, you can just pull over to the side and try to fix the problem. It’s rather impossible to fix a mechanical problem in an airplane when you are already in the air, so it is necessary to check the plane out thoroughly before every getting in the cockpit to take off. Stay tuned!

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Discussion flight with son-in-law who studied flight in the military

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Comments (7)
Ranked #3 in Science

You explained this really well.

Ranked #12 in Science

these articles are just so interesting

Very interesting discussion, great read.

Really good piece of work

Ranked #9 in Science

Thanks everyone. I have many more I want to write. I have to work as I feel up to it due to so much pain.

I enjoyed this and your other articles, but it still wont get me in an airplane..voted

I dont think anyone wants to see my flying an airplane anytime soon. Thanks though