Primary Flight Controls

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The 3 primary flight controls in your Cessna 172 trainer aircraft are: 

Ailerons: Control roll about the longitudinal axis. The ailerons are located at the rear of the wing, one on each side. They work opposite to each other, so when one is raised, the other is lowered. Their job is to increase the lift on one wing, while reducing the lift on the other. By doing this, they roll the aircraft sideways, which allows the aircraft to turn. This is the primary method of steering a fixed-wing aircraft. 

Elevator: Controls pitch about the lateral axis. The yoke can be pulled and pushed to cause the airplane to pitch up and down. The airplane can have an elevator, which is a hinged control surface mounted at the rear of the horizontal stabilizer –  or a stabilator which is a full flying horizontal stabilizer. The Cessna 177 Cardinal and Piper Cherokee have stabilators. 

Rudder: Controls yaw about the vertical axis. The foot pedals on the floor under the instrument panel can be pushed independently to cause yaw. The tops of the pedals also can be pushed for braking of the left and right wheel.

Movement of any of the three primary flight control surfaces (ailerons, elevator, and rudder), changes affect the lift and drag and allow a pilot to control the aircraft about its three axes of rotation.

At low airspeed, the controls usually feel soft and sluggish, and the aircraft responds slowly to control applications. At higher airspeeds, the controls become increasingly firm and aircraft response is more rapid.

Further Reading: PHAK Chapter 6,   Airplane Flying Handbook Chapter 3

PHAK Chapter 6


1. What is the purpose of the rudder on an airplane? 

a. To control yaw. 

b. To control roll. 

c. To control overbanking tendency. 

Answer: __________ 


1. a.