Steering an Aircraft: Use Ailerons for Lateral Control in Planes


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Since the ailerons are located far from the airplane's center of gravity, the smallest force produced by them has a significant effect. Photo Credit: Zoagli

Using Differential Ailerons in Flight

One method of countering adverse aileron yaw is to restrict the movement of the down-going aileron. This maneuver, differential ailerons, creates less induced drag, but the up-going aileron would move downwards by the same degree.

As a consequence, a proportional value of drag is created by both the ailerons, thereby negating the adverse aileron yaw.

Frise Ailerons to Counter Adverse Aileron Yaw

Another method the engineers came up with to counter adverse aileron yaw was to increase the drag produced by the up-going flap: Frise Ailerons.

In this maneuver, the excess drag from the down-going aileron is countered by a small protrusion from the leading edge of the up-going aileron/flap. This protrusion generates drag, proportionate to that produced by the down-going aileron. This generation of proportionate drag by both the ailerons, counters adverse aileron yaw.

Another method would be to simply pair the ailerons with the airplane rudder to counter the unwanted yaw, without the pilot having to manually negate the yaw tendency during the turn.

Aileron use of a Boeing 747-400 can be viewed in the above video.

Steering an Airplane

There are a number of forces working to impact an airplane during flight, and the pilot must take each into consideration when steering his or her plane. The flap-like structures on the back of aircraft wings, Ailerons, are a critical tool for maneuvering in the air.


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

Federal Aviation Administration. Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge. (2008). Accessed March 19, 2012.

Federal Aviation Administration. Airplane Flying Handbook. (2004). Accessed March 19, 2012.

Oxford Aviation Services. Joint Aviation Authorities Airline Transport Pilot’s License Theoretical Knowledge Manual. (2001). Accessed March 19, 2012.

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