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11 Primary


Flight Controls
The material covered in this document is based off information obtained from
the original manufacturers Pilot and Maintenance manuals. It is to be used
for simulation purposes only.

Copyright 2012 by Angle of Attack Productions, LLC

All rights reserved

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Table of Contents Table of Illustrations
Primary Flight Controls Overview 3 Figure 11-1. Aircraft Movments 4
Basic Physics of Flt Ctrl Surfaces 5 Figure 11-2. Stabilizer Trim Cutout and Override Switches9
Elevator & Tab Ctrl Systems 6 Figure 11-3. Flight Controls Hydraulics 18
Stabilizer Trim 8 Figure 11-4. Flight Controls Cables 19
Ailerons and Aileron Trim 12 Figure 11-5. Flight Controls Panel 21
Flight Spoilers 15
Rudder and Rudder Trim 16
Components 20
Flight Controls Switch 20
Flight Spoilers Switch  20
Flight Control Low Pressure Light 20
Yaw Damper Switch and Warning Light 21
STBY Hydraulic Low Quantity & Low Press Lights  21
Flight Control Panel Warning Lights 22
Alternate Flaps Arm and Control Switches 22

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Primary Flight Controls Overview
An aircrafts attitude can be changed around three (3) The primary flight control surfaces and their direct effects
perpendicular axes that intersect at the Center of Gravity are:
(CG): Elevators (change in Pitch),
Lateral axis, Ailerons (change in Roll),
Longitudinal axis, Rudder (change in Yaw).
Vertical axis.

External forces (eg. Wind) may alter the desired flight path
thus creating the need for the aircraft to be maneuvered
back to the correct attitude through three (3) movements:
Pitch (around the Lateral axis),
Roll (around the Longitudinal axis),
Yaw (around the Vertical axis).

To achieve these movements around the aircrafts axes,

flight controls are employed. There are two (2) groups of
flight controls: Primary and Secondary. Secondary flight
controls are covered in the Secondary flight controls

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Figure 11-1. Aircraft Movments

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Basic Physics of Flt Ctrl Surfaces
An aircraft is free to rotate within the three axes and it will The 737NG has two (2) elevators, two (2) ailerons, one
always turn about its CG, or center of gravity. The tendency (1) rudder and eight (8) flight spoilers. We will now split this
to do this is known as a turning moment. A moment is equal lesson into Pitch, Roll and Yaw.
to the product of the force applied and the distance from
which the force is being applied. This is known as arm and it
is measured with reference to a defined datum.

Because the relationship between force and arm is

inversely proportional, the longer the distance from the
datum means the force has to be smaller to maintain
positive balance, and vice-versa.

The flight controls are designed to deflect airflow and

produce these forces that make the aircraft turn around its
axes. This is done by changing the angle of attack of the
control surface thus allowing for a change in lift.

EXAMPLE: When the control column is pulled back the

elevators are deflected upwards and due to the lower
angle of attack on the control surface, there is lesser lift
in the horizontal stabilizer causing it to go down and thus
bringing the aircraft nose up.

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Elevator & Tab Ctrl Systems
Elevators are movable surfaces attached to the rear spar system may command both elevators in case one of the
on the trailing edge of the horizontal stabilizer that control two systems fails.
the pitch attitude of the aircraft around its lateral axis. The
pilot moves the control column FWD or AFT to achieve The PCUs ensure that the elevators may always be moved
the desired change in attitude. Paired cables are used to under any condition. This means that even in the event of
transmit pilot input into the respective interfaces and flight a complete hydraulic failure, the cables and linkages allow
control surfaces. for manual operation of the elevators. This condition is
known as manual reversion.
In order to provide system redundancy, each hydraulic
system A & B powers one of the two elevators on the In case one of the control columns becomes jammed,
737NGX. Either hydraulic system may power both elevators elevator control is still achievable from the other control
in case one of the two systems fails. column thanks to the Elevator Breakout Mechanism. This
provides added reliability and system redundancy.
The basic principle is: The control column sends the pilots
inputs to the elevator power control unit (PCU) which is an At least 31lbs of additional force must be applied to use
interface between the pilots mechanical input and a series the working control column while the other is jammed. In this
of hydraulic actuators on each elevator. These inputs are condition, when 100lbs of force are applied on the control
also sent to the Flight Data Acquisition Unit (FDAU) for flight column, the elevator moves 4. In a total hydraulic failure
data recording. emergency situation, this amount of deflection is sufficient
for a safe landing flare.
The autopilots have a separate series of actuators that
also give mechanical input to the elevator PCUs. The elevator PCUs also limit the amount of elevator travel.
When the horizontal stabilizer is neutral and there is no
The right PCU gets hydraulic system B pressure and the left input to the Mach Trim Actuator (which will be discussed
PCU gets system A pressure. This means either hydraulic further along), the elevator is downrigged four degrees

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Elevator & Tab Ctrl Systems (Cont.)
(with reference to the stabilizer mean chord line). extend and provide a feel force. When the control column
is released, the roller moves to a detent and thus the
From this position, the elevator can move 24.3 up and system moves to a neutral position.
18.1 down.
At higher airspeeds, the elevator feel computer increases
Each elevator has three balance panels with balance the metered pressure to the control column feel system to
weights in the forward side and a tab attached to the AFT provide simulated aerodynamic forces when operating the
edge. The balance panels decrease the force necessary control columns. This feature is not available during manual
to move the elevator in flight. reversion.

The elevator feel and centering unit is a computer that The elevators also have a tab that varies to help reduce
gives variable control column forces as the airspeed the required elevator pitching moment. When the trailing
changes and the horizontal stabilizer moves. The elevator edge flaps are up, the elevator tab operates in balance
feel computer receives input from: mode. The tab moves in a direction opposite to elevator
Pitot Tubes through Pitot Ports travel.
Hydraulic System A & B
When the TE flaps are not up and there is hydraulic power,
Horizontal Stabilizer
the elevator tab operates in anti-balance mode. The tab
Elevator Feel Shift Module (EFSM) This last mechanism moves in the same direction of elevator travel.
operates during a stall providing 850psi of hydraulic
system A pressure to the elevator feel system.

The elevator feel and centering also moves the elevators

to a neutral position when there is no input. When the
control column moves, a roller is moved causing springs to

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Stabilizer Trim
Most aircraft have little surfaces on the flight controls that trim switches located on the outboard side of each control
are utilized to hold the aircraft in its current attitude without wheel. These control electric input to the stabilizer trim
the pilot having to make excessive input on the control actuator that also moves a mechanism with a jackscrew.
systems. This process is known as trimming the aircraft, Like we mentioned before, when the jackscrew moves, the
and the 737NGX is trimmable in all three of the primary stabilizer moves. The system is made so that:
flight controls. The pitch trim is controlled with a movable
horizontal stabilizer by either of three ways: When the electric stabilizer switch is operated, the
Manual Operation, with the Stabilizer Trim Wheels horizontal stabilizer is moved and so are the stabilizer
Electric Operation, with the Stabilizer Trim Switches trim wheels. In case the stabilizer is trimmed to the end of
its electric limits, additional trim is available through the
Autopilot Operation, achieved electronically through a
Digital Flight Controls System (DFCS).
manual trim wheels.

During Manual Operation, the pilots use stabilizer trim Finally, during Autopilot Operation, the Digital Flight Control
wheels that are linked to a mechanism with a jackscrew. System gives electric input to the stabilizer trim actuator,
When the jackscrew moves, the horizontal stabilizer moves. however, this actuator operates at different speeds when
receiving autopilot input. Stabilizer position sensors feed
Its good to know that under normal conditions, the the DFCS: Sensor A sends information to the DCFS via the
stabilizer trim is the only control surface on the 737NG Flight Control Computer (FCC) A, and similarly for sensor B.
that is completely independent from the need of hydraulic
power. This also means that under certain flight conditions, There are various switches associated to stabilizer trim
the effort required to manually operate the stabilizer trim operation:
may be higher. Column Cutout Switches
Stabilizer Trim Override Switch
During Electric Operation, the pilots operate four stabilizer Stabilizer Trim Cutout Switches

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Stabilizer Trim (Cont.)
Flaps Up Switch
Stabilizer Trim Limit Switches

The Column Cutout Switches allow for the stabilizer trim

to stop in case the pilot electrically trims the stabilizer
opposite to elevator control input. STAB TRIM

The Stabilizer Trim Override Switch bypasses the column MAIN NORMAL AUTO
cutout switch. The pilot uses this switch to operate the
electric trim if both column cutout switches fail.

The Stabilizer Trim Cutout Switches are used to stop the

stabilizer trim actuator if there is any uncommanded motion
of the trim actuator. CUT

The Flaps Up Switch determines trim speed relative to flap

position. When the flaps are up, low speed trim is engaged
Figure 11-2. Stabilizer Trim Cutout and Override Switches
at 0.2units per second. When flaps are not up, high speed
trim is engaged at 0.4units per second.

The Stabilizer Trim Limit Switches limit the range of stabilizer

travel. There are different limits for manual, autopilot, flaps
up or flaps down operation. There is also a takeoff warning
switch that alerts for incorrect stabilizer trim configuration
during takeoff. The cockpit STAB TRIM indicator has a

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Stabilizer Trim (Cont.)
green band to show the takeoff trim range. changing the control column neutral position through the
elevator feel and centering unit. The Mach information is
The horizontal stabilizer movement lower and higher limits, obtained from the Air Data Inertial Reference Unit (ADIRU).
as well as the neutral position, are marked on the fuselage.
The limits are: Another similar system in the 737NGX is the Speed Trim
4.2 of stabilizer leading edge UP System.
12.9 of stabilizer leading edge DOWN
Like the Mach Trim system, the Speed Trim system also
Its good to keep in mind that when the stabilizer moves UP provides speed stability, however, it is designed to return
the aircraft nose moves DOWN, and vice-versa. the aircraft to a trimmed speed by trimming the stabilizer
opposite to the direction of speed change. This also
Weve mentioned the Mach Trim System a couple of times increases control column forces. Some conditions that have
during this lesson. This will be explained now. to be met for speed trim operation are:

Mach number is the relationship between the true airspeed Low Gross Weight
of an aircraft and speed of sound. If the Mach number AFT Center of Gravity
exceeds 1.000, the aircraft becomes Supersonic. N1> 60%, or high power settings
Airspeed between 100 indicated knots (KIAS) and Mach
The 737NGX has a maximum cruising speed of Mach 0.50
0.780. Autopilot Disengaged

The Mach Trim system provides speed stability at Mach Essentially when the speed trim system comes alive, it
numbers above 0.615. Elevators are adjusted relative requires the pilot to provide a significant amount of pull
to stabilizer position as speed increases, subsequently force to reduce airspeed and significant amount of push

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Stabilizer Trim (Cont.)
force to increase airspeed. Notes

You can see that there are quite a few ways that the
elevator controls translate to direct and comfortable pilot
control. Although quite complex, this elevator system is
relativily simple compared to other aircraft flight controls

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Ailerons and Aileron Trim
Ailerons are movable surfaces on both wing outboard hydraulic system controls a single aileron. In case of a
trailing edges that control the flight attitude of the aircraft hydraulic system failure, the working system may control both
about the longitudinal axis, more commonly known as ailerons. In case of a total hydraulic failure, ailerons are
roll. The ailerons are coupled so that when one of them still controllable mechanically. This condition is known as
moves down, the other moves up. There are three ways of manual reversion.
achieving roll control on the 737NG:
Manually, by moving either control wheel The upper PCU gets hydraulic system B pressure and the
Automatically, by autopilot input to move control wheels lower PCU gets hydraulic system A pressure. The PCUs also
with actuators limit aileron travel to 20 UP and 15 DOWN.
Through Flight Spoilers. (These will be discussed at a
further stage during this lesson) When pilots turn the control wheels, mechanical stops in the
aileron control wheel components keep the control wheel
During manual operation, the flight crew controls the movement limited to 107.5 left or right.
roll attitude with control wheels that are interlinked
mechanically in order to provide system redundancy. Just The aileron feel and centering move the ailerons to a
like with the elevators, the ailerons are actuated through neutral position when there is no input. When the control
pairs of cables that transmit force. Ailerons are also column moves, a roller is moved causing springs to extend
operated via the Aileron Power Control Unit (PCU) that and provide a feel force. When the control column is
acts as an interface between the pilots mechanical inputs released, the roller moves to a detent and thus the system
and a series of hydraulic actuators that move the ailerons moves to a neutral position.
with wing cables.
The Captains control wheel directly transmits force input
The aileron PCUs ensure that the ailerons are movable to the aileron feel and centering unit whereas the First
under any condition. Under normal operation, each Officers control wheel directly transmits force to the spoiler
mixer. The spoiler mixer is further discussed in the Secondary

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Ailerons and Aileron Trim (Cont.)
Flight Controls lesson. In case there is a failure or jam in
either control wheel, the Aileron Transfer Mechanism allows Both aileron trim switches must be operated at the same
for both control wheels to be able to make roll commands. time to supply power to the trim actuator.

EXAMPLE: If the spoiler system is jammed, aileron roll control We saw before that the elevators and their systems were
may be achieved through the Captains control wheel, virtually in a straight line from the control columns in the
however, the First Officers control wheel and the flight cockpit. This is not the case with ailerons, where many of
spoilers would then be unusable. On the other hand, if one the components are located away from the airplanes
control wheel cannot move, the mechanism allows the other fuselage. The very ailerons are located on the outboard
pilot to operate the other control wheel satisfactorily. trailing edges of both wings. This requires complex
component linkages, which are achieved in the following
The ailerons also have a trim system that works similarly to way:
the elevator trim system, except that there is no trim wheel.
Instead, two (2) Aileron trim switches are located in the AFT The systems that run along the centerline are connected to
electronic panel and the aileron trim indicator is located Aileron Body Quadrants near the forward bulkhead of the
on the top of the aileron control wheel. The indication is in main landing gear wheel well. Both body quadrants are
units of trim, where each unit is equal to 6 of control wheel connected to each aileron PCU. If one hydraulic system is
rotation. The maximum trim available is 9.5 units or 57 of OFF, the other PCU commands both quadrants.
control wheel rotation.
The body quadrants are connected to the wing quadrants
When the aileron trim is in operation, an actuator moves through the wing cables so when a wing cable moves, it
the same aileron roller that we discussed before, causing moves the related wing quadrant and finally the respective
springs to extend. This gives input to the power control aileron.
units to move the ailerons and the control wheels are also
moved. Similarly to the elevators, there is an aileron tab that moves

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Ailerons and Aileron Trim (Cont.)
in a direction opposite to aileron movement to maintain Notes
positive balance.

EXAMPLE: When the control wheel is moved to the left, the

left aileron rises and the left aileron tab comes down. In the
opposite wing, the right aileron comes down and the right
aileron tab rises. This induces a noticeably higher angle
of attack in the right wing when compared to the left wing,
thus causing the right wing to go up and roll the aircraft
towards the left.

The ailerons also have balance panels and weights in

order to decrease the force necessary to move them
during flight.

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Flight Spoilers
Flight Spoilers are used to achieve significantly higher wheels to control roll with spoilers. The control wheels
rolling moments around the airplanes longitudinal axis. give mechanical input to the aileron Power Control Units
These are a series of panels on the upper surface of each (PCUs) through the aileron feel and centering unit. From
wing that rise when extended thus creating an enormous here, the PCUs supply mechanical input to the flight spoiler
amount of drag. Flight spoilers are only meant to be an aid actuators that use hydraulic power to move the flight
to roll control, not the primary roll control method. spoilers.

There are twelve (12) spoilers on each wing, numbered 1 The control wheels must be displaced more than 10 left or
to 12 from left to right. The most outboard and the most right to actuate the respective set of flight spoilers.
inboard spoilers on each wing are ground spoilers. Only
the four (4) flight spoilers on each wing provide roll control. System redundancy is provided in the following manner:
Each hydraulic system powers a specific set of flight
During roll, when the control wheel turns left, the flight spoilers in such a way that there is no asymmetrical
spoilers on the left wing move up and in the right wing they deployment when there is a hydraulic system failure. One-
stay faired down. sided deployment of spoilers is also avoided with this
Flight Spoiler panels on the 737NG have numerous
functions such as: Although most of the aileron operation seems difficult to
Aiding ailerons in achieving roll control, understand and may need several reviews before it sinks
Aileron trim, in, keep in mind that most of what you have learned here
will be transparent to you as the pilot flying. Having an
Speedbrake operation during flight,
understanding of the background workings of these systems
Speedbrake operation on ground during landing. may give you a greater appreciation for what goes on
behind the scenes, and what happens when things go
Similarly to ailerons, the flight crew uses the control awry.

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Rudder and Rudder Trim
The rudder is a movable surface attached to the rear main rudder PCU malfunctions.
spar of the vertical stabilizer that provides Yaw control
of the aircraft around its vertical axis. The rudder may be There is no manual reversion available for rudder control,
operated by either of three ways: which means that if theoretically both normal hydraulic
Manually, with the rudder pedals, systems and the STBY hydraulic system were to fail, rudder
Manually, with the rudder trim, control would not be achievable. The probability of this
happening is negligible.
Through the Yaw Damper.
We mentioned earlier that elevators and ailerons had a
During manual operation, the pilot presses the pedals to
pair of PCUs to control them. During normal operation,
achieve movement in the respective direction.
only one main PCU powers the rudder. The original 737

was designed using one dual valve with input from both
EXAMPLE: When the right rudder pedal is pressed, the
hydraulic systems. This was partly responsible for a series of
rudder moves to the right of its neutral position thus
accidents associated to 737 rudder problems. In 2003,
creating a rightward turning moment and achieving yaw
the Rudder System Enhancement Program (RSEP) was
to the right. The same logic applies when the left rudder
introduced, where the original dual valve that received
pedals are pressed.
input from both hydraulic systems A & B was replaced by
one set of components and actuators for Hydraulic System
Similarly to the rest of the flight control surfaces weve
A, and an independent set of components and actuators
covered, rudder pedal movement inputs are linked to
for Hydraulic System B. In this lesson we will discuss the
control valves in the Rudder Power Control Unit (PCU) via
rudder system schematic with RSEP installed.
cables and linkages that also pass through the Rudder
Feel and Centering Unit. In the case of rudder control, the
Both hydraulic systems and the STBY hydraulic system have
pilot inputs are also linked to a STBY Rudder PCU that
separate control input mechanisms for the rudder PCU. All
provides backup and system redundancy in the event of
three of them have individual jam protection mechanisms.

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Rudder and Rudder Trim (Cont.)
When either system A or B is jammed or disconnected, the The rudder trim indicator shows the amount of rudder trim
main rudder PCU detects a pressure imbalance via the in units. Rudder authority is limited when airspeed is higher
Force Flight Monitor (FFM). It is important to understand this than 137 indicated knots (KIAS) in order to provide
because the FFM, after 5 seconds, automatically turns on protection after takeoff and before landing.
the STBY hydraulic pump, STBY rudder shutoff valve, and
pressurizes the STBY rudder PCU. Lights and annunciators
are displayed in the cockpit when this condition occurs.

The rudder has a maximum deflection of 29 left and 29


The rudder feel and centering unit gives simulated feel to

the rudder pedals and centers the rudder and rudder trim
inputs in the rudder PCU. When a pilot presses his rudder
pedals, a roller is moved and springs are compressed
supplying feel force to the pedals. When the pedals are
released, the roller moves to a detent and the system
moves to a neutral position.

The rudder may also be operated manually through the

electric rudder trim control. This changes the rudder neutral
position. One of the two rudder trim switches inside the
single rudder trim control is connected to the Flight Data
Acquisition Unit (FDAU) to record rudder trim position.

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Figure 11-3. Flight Controls Hydraulics

Primary Flight Controls


Rev 1.0 Apr 12

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Figure 11-4. Flight Controls Cables

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Weve had a look at different flight control surfaces and 1. ON Position: Is the normal operating position. Hydraulic
systems on the 737NG. Now, we will discuss two of the system pressure is on to the elevators, elevator feel
three primary main use components, which are: computer, ailerons and rudder.
Flight control cables, 2. OFF Position: Hydraulic system pressure is removed from
Flight control panel, the elevators, elevator feel computer, ailerons and rudder.
3. STBY RUD position: It has the same effect as the OFF
Flight control Hydraulic Modular Packages.
position, but instead turns on the STBY hydraulic pump and
pressurizes the STBY rudder PCU to achieve STBY Rudder
Flight Control cables are used to give mechanical input
control and STBY Yaw Damper.
to each Feel and Centering Unit, then to each Power
Control Unit (PCU). The feel and centering units provide
Flight Spoilers Switch
artificial feel forces to the controls and pedals, and also
Two switches (one for each hydraulic system) with two
sets them to neutral positions. The PCU is responsible for
positions- ON, OFF. 28V DC motors also power them.
directing hydraulic fluid in order to achieve control surface

movement. Both these components were discussed in the
1. ON position: Is the normal operating position. Hydraulic
respective sections of this lesson.
system pressure is on to the flight spoilers.
2. OFF position: Removes hydraulic system pressure from the
The flight control panel (located in the FWD Overhead
flight spoilers.
panel) has a series of hydraulic control switches and
caution lights for the flight control systems. These are: Flight Control Low Pressure Light
The low pressure warning switch gives an amber light
Flight Controls Switch
indication when there is low hydraulic system A or B
Two switches (one for each hydraulic system) with three
pressure to the flight control system. The low pressure light
positions- ON, OFF, STBY RUD. The flight controls shutoff
only operates when the flight control switch is in the ON or
valve is powered by a 28V DC motor.
OFF position. When the switch is in the STBY RUD position,

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Components (Cont.)
the STBY rudder shutoff valve controls the low pressure light
through the valve position relay.

The low pressure light comes on when system pressure is less

than 1300psi.

When the low pressure light comes on, there is a master

CAUTION and also the FLT CONT annunciator comes up.

Yaw Damper Switch and Warning Light

One switch with two positions- OFF, ON.

1. ON position: Engages either the main yaw damper

to main rudder if the B flight control switch is in the ON
position, or the STBY yaw damper to the STBY rudder PCU
if both the A & B flight control switches are in the STBY RUD

2. OFF position: disengages Yaw Damper.

The Yaw Damper warning light comes on when the system is


Figure 11-5. Flight Controls Panel

STBY Hydraulic Low Quantity & Low Press Lights

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Components (Cont.)
The STBY hydraulic low quantity light comes on when:
4. Mach Trim Fail Light: Comes on when the mach trim
1. STBY system reservoir hydraulic fluid quantity decreases function in the flight control computers (FCCs) becomes
below 50% of its normal quantity. unavailable.

The STBY low pressure light comes on when: Alternate Flaps Arm and Control Switches
This series of control switches is discussed in the Secondary
2. STBY system output pressure from the STBY electric Flight Controls lesson.
pump decreases below limits.

Flight Control Panel Warning Lights

There are certain warning lights that illuminate when
unwanted flight control conditions exist:

1. Feel Differential Pressure Light: Comes on when there

is a 25% difference between the system A and system B
metered output pressures in the elevator feel computer for
more than 30 seconds.

2. Autoslat Fail Light: Comes on when the autoslat function

becomes unavailable.

3. Speed Trim Fail Light: Comes on when the speed trim

function in the flight control computers (FCCs) becomes

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