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Flight Controls (Part Four) – Elevator

in Flight Controls

The elevator controls pitch about the lateral axis.  Like the ailerons on small aircraft, the elevator is connected to the control column in the flight deck by a series of mechanical linkages. Aft movement of the control column deflects the trailing edge of the elevator surface up. This is usually referred to as up “elevator.” [Figure 5-10]

The up-elevator position decreases the camber of the elevator and creates a downward aerodynamic force, which is greater than the normal tail-down force that exists in straight-and-level flight. The overall effect causes the tail of the aircraft to move down and the nose to pitch up. The pitching moment occurs about the center of gravity (CG). The strength of the pitching moment is determined by the distance between the CG and the horizontal tail surface, as well as by the aerodynamic effectiveness of the horizontal tail surface. Moving the control column forward has the opposite effect. In this case, elevator camber increases, creating more lift (less tail-down force) on the horizontal stabilizer/elevator. This moves the tail upward and pitches the nose down. Again, the pitching moment occurs about the CG.

As mentioned earlier in the coverage on stability, power, thrustline, and the position of the horizontal tail surfaces on the empennage are factors in elevator effectiveness controlling pitch. For example, the horizontal tail surfaces may be attached near the lower part of the vertical stabilizer, at the midpoint, or at the high point, as in the T-tail design.

Figure 5-10. The elevator is the primary control for changing the pitch attitude of an airplane.
Figure 5-10. The elevator is the primary control for changing the pitch attitude of an airplane.

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