MIAMI – An aircraft cockpit’s most “hands-on” elements—those that allow the pilot to command the plane’s actual movement from taxiing through landing—are frequently identical from one aircraft design to the next.

Avionics have included cockpit displays, flight controls, flight management systems, and integrated flight decks since the early days of aviation. Even if a novice single-engine student pilot had never seen the incredible Boeing 787 cockpit, he or she would be able to recognize the most basic control features.

A good understanding of the forces of flight and how an airplane operates goes hand in hand with knowledge of an aircraft’s controls. It will be easier to command a cockpit if you become familiar with the key control surfaces of an aircraft. For example, if a pilot is confident in his or her knowledge of how a vertical stabilizer works, he or she will be able to control an airplane’s rudders more efficiently.

Today, we will focus on the five main aircraft control elements a pilot must know by heart.

Photo: Iain Marshall/Airways

Ignition Control


In the startup procedure of major commercial jets, a sequence of switches is utilized to rev up a tiny APU, although pilots of a few smaller planes may require an actual car-like key. However, while certain older planes may require the use of a lever during the ignition process, the majority of pilots use automatic starters.

Off, Right (R), Left (L), Both, and Start are the five positions on most ignition switches. The magnetos, or electrical generators, within the airplane’s engines are referred to as “right,” “left,” and “both.” Pre-flighting procedures should be closely followed to avoid common ignition control issues.

Photo: Lorenzo Giacobbo/Airways

Yoke, Side Stick, Center Stick


Pilots steer aircraft with a yoke, which controls the ailerons. The yoke allows the pilot to move the plane “up,” “down,” “over left,” and “over right,” in simple terms. Roll and pitch are controlled by twisting the yoke from side to side. Pushing forward on the yoke causes the airplane’s nose to pitch down; pushing back causes the nose to point up.

Yokes, often known as the “control wheel,” are seen in fixed-wing airplanes. The most common yokes are in the shape of a W or a U, with a few in the shape of an M or “ram’s horn.” The yokes on smaller planes are linked to the instrument panel by a strong tube.

Photo: Kochan Kleps/Airways

Side sticks, rather than yokes, are used on modern Airbus planes. This configuration provides for a larger instrument display while also being lighter than a typical yoke. They are preferred by some pilots over more traditional controls.

While certain current aerobatic planes and combat jets employ center sticks to better cope with G-forces, most pilots will notice a stick rather than a yoke when they open the door of an older plane.

The control stick is normally found on the cockpit floor, and the pilot straddles it while sitting in his or her seat. The joystick, sometimes known as the “joystick,” controls the plane’s attitude and altitude in the same way that the yoke does.

Photo: Julian Schöpfer/Airways

The Engine Control Quadrant: Throttle, Mixture, Propeller


Some aircraft provide pilots with a single unit for operating the engine, with all pertinent controls gathered together in the engine control quadrant. These controls are sometimes separated in other cockpits, although they are normally placed together in the bottom center of the instrument panel.

The throttle controls the airplane’s engine power. It’s analogous to a car’s gas pedal. The throttle, which is usually black in color, is either a push-pull device or a lever. The pilot adds or subtracts power to the airplane’s engine or engines by controlling the amount of fuel/air mixture via the throttle.

The propeller control is located next to the throttle on airplanes with controllable (or variable) pitch. This controls propeller RPM, allowing the pilot to request more power before takeoff and then adjust for fuel efficiency during flight. It’s usually blue in color.

A red mixture sits next to the propeller control. This refers to the fuel-to-air ratio that enters the engine. When the plane takes off, the pilot changes the mixture to “rich” to allow for the most fuel possible. During cruise flight and landing, the mixture knob is turned to a more “lean” setting, letting more air pass through more effectively.

Photo: Lorenzo Giacobbo/Airways

Flap Handle


Pilots will normally locate a flap control switch on the instrument panel of a small airplane built after the late 1970s. It’s usually white and runs parallel to the cockpit, and it’s occasionally formed like a little flap. The flap handle, which is usually located close to the throttle, allows the pilot to enhance both lift and drag. During takeoff, approach, and landing, the flap handle is usually employed.

If a pilot wants to manipulate the flaps on an airplane built before the 1970s, he or she utilizes a handle near the seat. The flaps are lowered by pulling up on the handle.

Photo: Kochan Kleps/Airways

Rudder Pedals


Pilots must also learn how to use the rudder pedals on the plane’s floor. Initially, the first airplanes had no brakes at all, so pilots merely slowed down and hoped that a bumpy grass runway would bring the plane to a halt.

The rudder controls yaw — the plane’s direction to the “left” and “right.” The vertical stabilizer’s trailing edge is controlled by the pedals. When the pilot presses the upper half of the pedals, the rudder pedals also control the wheel brakes in most small planes.


Featured image: Lorenzo Giacobbo/Airways. Article source: calaero.com