Airplane Turns – Using Elevator, Rudder and Throttle During Turns

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The Role of Airplane Rudders in Turning an Aircraft

The rudder of a jet airplane deflected towards the left. Photo Credit: nist6ss

Airplane rudders control the yaw movement of the aircraft, along its normal axis. When the aircraft is in a banked position, the total drag produced from the raised wing is greater than that produced by the lowered wing.

This consequently causes the aircraft to tilt out of the turn, or in technical terms: to yaw in a direction opposite to the intended turn. At this point, the aircraft is turning, but with its nose yawing outwards.

Pilots use the rudder to correct for this unwanted aircraft yaw. If the aircraft is turning left, they apply left rudder and vice versa.  The rudders are only used to coordinate the turn; to control the unwanted yaw.

Using Thrust When Turning the Plane

Pilots also use the throttle during turning aircraft maneuvers to produce the required thrust, which in turn is capable of increasing/decreasing the airspeed of an aircraft. The relation of airspeed with the turning of an airplane is fairly simple:

  • The higher the airspeed, the greater the turn radius.
  • The lower the airspeed, the smaller the turn radius.

As you can see, the throttle can be used to alter the radius of turns during flight, by keeping the bank angle constant.

Using Rudder, Ailerons, Elevator and Throttle to Coordinate Changes in Direction

The rudder, ailerons and the elevator along with the throttle, all function in cohesion. The pilot must maintain a necessary balance between these to achieve a perfectly coordinated turn that is efficient; thereby saving time, fuel and conducting a maneuver that airplane fans love to behold.

A Banked Southwest Airlines Boeing 737. Photo Credit: Alex Gorstan

Resources:

Aviation Theory Centre. Aeroplane General Knowledge and Aerodynamics. (2004).

Federal Aviation Administration. Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge. (2008). Accessed March 17, 2012.

Federal Aviation Administration. Airplane Flying Handbook. (2004). Accessed March 17, 2012.

Oxford Aviation Services. Joint Aviation Authorities Airline Transport Pilot’s License Theoretical Knowledge Manual. (2001). Accessed March 17, 2012.

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