What Are Aircraft Ailerons and How Do They Function

            While early aircraft were fairly simple in their design, there have since been numerous developments that have allowed pilots to truly harness the forces of aerodynamics in order to improve flight efficiency. Flight control surfaces are devices that allow for the pilot to govern the attitude of an aircraft, and they are commonly found on many fixed-wing aircraft. With flight control devices known as ailerons, the pilot is given control of the longitudinal axis of the aircraft, allowing them to affect lift on each wing in order to roll. In this blog, we will discuss in detail what the aileron assembly does, as well as how pilots utilize it for flight.

            Generally speaking, an aileron assembly consists of a hinged flight control surface that is implemented on the trailing edge of each wing. From the cockpit, the pilot can either control the ailerons manually or through autopilot, and ailerons are governed by either moving a control wheel or control stick left or right. When moving the controls left, for example, the aileron actuator on the left wing causes the flight device to deploy and extend upwards into the air, and the right aileron assembly deflects downwards in response. As a result of deployment, the camber of the left wing is decreased as the camber of the right wing increases, and thus a greater amount of lift is induced on the right wing. With this change in aerodynamics and imbalance of lift, the aircraft will begin to roll towards the left. This sequence of responses functions in the adverse way as well as when the pilot moves controls to the right, the aircraft will begin to roll right in response. For some aircraft types, roll spoilers may also be implemented on the wing’s upper surface in order to assist in aileron assembly operation.

            While the functionality of ailerons is extremely beneficial to the control of aircraft, the flight control devices do come with their drawbacks. As the aircraft rolls to the right or left, the amount of drag that each wing is subject to changes. For instance, as the left wing dips down due to aileron actuation, an increased amount of lift and drag is created that causes the initial yawing of the aircraft to move in the opposing direction of the roll. This is because ailerons operate similarly to an actuator flap assembly, meaning that the chord line of the wing is affected during operation. As the chord line changes, the angle of attack rises, and thus induced drag increases. To remedy such a situation, frise ailerons raise on an offset hinge, causing the aileron’s leading edge to be forced into the airflow. As a result, adverse yaw is reduced and drag is increased, and form drag counters the induced drag in order to maintain direction.

            As the aileron assembly has a direct influence on the angle of attack on each wing, it is critical that a pilot ensures that these angles do not exceed safe values. If the downwards wing has enough aileron deflection and passes a critical angle of attack, the entire wing will abruptly stall, resulting in a quick roll in that direction. Despite this, aileron control can also assist in a spin, as spins are caused when both wings are stalled. To help bring oneself out of such a situation, all ailerons should be set to neutral, allowing for the wings to reach the same angle of attack in order to decrease pitching and rolling of the aircraft. While one may think that utilizing the ailerons in such a situation may be beneficial, doing so may cause an increased stall, thus tightening the spin.

            Altogether, the aileron flight control device proves to be a highly beneficial part of aircraft, allowing for pilots to control the longitudinal axis of the aircraft in order to better control direction and movement. When conducting flight operations, one should always ensure that their aileron actuator components and aileron assembly parts are all functional and operate efficiently. When it comes time to source the aileron assembly parts and other flight control devices that you need for your aircraft operations, look no further than ASAP Axis. ASAP Axis is a leading online distributor of aviation parts, offering customers access to premium actuator rudder components, actuator flap assembly parts, elevator controls, and much more. Explore our robust part catalogues today and see how we can help you fulfill all of your operational needs with ease.


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February 16, 2021

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