Col l ec t i v e
Helicopter flight control system.
Hydraulic pressureHydraulic returnPivot point
LEGENDElevator (UP)Control stick (AFT—Nose up)Control cablesPower cylinderNeutralNeutralControl valvesNeutralPower disconnect linkage
Hydromechanical flight control system.
ElevatorControl stick CablePulleysPush rod
Mechanical flight control system.
As aviation matured and aircraft designers learned more aboutaerodynamics, the industry produced larger and faster aircraft.Therefore, the aerodynamic forces acting upon the controlsurfaces increased exponentially. To make the control forcerequired by pilots manageable, aircraft engineers designedmore complex systems. At ﬁrst, hydromechanical designs,consisting of a mechanical circuit and a hydraulic circuit,were used to reduce the complexity, weight, and limitationsof mechanical ﬂight controls systems.
As aircraft became more sophisticated, the control surfaceswere actuated by electric motors, digital computers, or ﬁberoptic cables. Called “ﬂy-by-wire,” this ﬂight control systemreplaces the physical connection between pilot controls andthe ﬂight control surfaces with an electrical interface. Inaddition, in some large and fast aircraft, controls are boostedby hydraulically or electrically actuated systems. In boththe ﬂy-by-wire and boosted controls, the feel of the controlreaction is fed back to the pilot by simulated means.Current research at the National Aeronautics and SpaceAdministration (NASA) Dryden Flight Research Centerinvolves Intelligent Flight Control Systems (IFCS). The goalof this project is to develop an adaptive neural network-basedﬂight control system. Applied directly to ﬂight control systemfeedback errors, IFCS provides adjustments to improveaircraft performance in normal ﬂight as well as with systemfailures. With IFCS, a pilot is able to maintain control andsafely land an aircraft that has suffered a failure to a controlsurface or damage to the airframe. It also improves missioncapability, increases the reliability and safety of ﬂight, andeases the pilot workload.Today’s aircraft employ a variety of ﬂight control systems.For example, some aircraft in the sport pilot category rely onweight-shift control to ﬂy while balloons use a standard burntechnique. Helicopters utilize a cyclic to tilt the rotor in thedesired direction along with a collective to manipulate rotorpitch and anti-torque pedals to control yaw.
For additional information on ﬂight control systems, referto the appropriate handbook for information related to theﬂight control systems and characteristics of speciﬁc typesof aircraft.
Flight Control Systems
Aircraft flight control systems consist of primary andsecondary systems. The ailerons, elevator (or stabilator), andrudder constitute the primary control system and are required tocontrol an aircraft safely during ﬂight. Wing ﬂaps, leading edgedevices, spoilers, and trim systems constitute the secondarycontrol system and improve the performance characteristics of the airplane or relieve the pilot of excessive control forces.
Primary Flight Controls
Aircraft control systems are carefully designed to provideadequate responsiveness to control inputs while allowing a