The Control Systems of Aircraft

Control over an aircraft and its heading is provided through various flight surfaces and systems spread across the fuselage. For large aircraft, flight control systems can be heavy and robust pieces that are unable to be moved through the sheer force of the pilot. To help pilots overcome their own limitations for the means of adjusting flaps, ailerons, and other components, various control systems may be used. These come in the form of mechanical, hydromechanical, and fly-by-wire systems, each of which differ in their makeup and capabilities. To help you understand the differences between each, we will discuss them briefly.

Mechanical controls are the earliest type, serving many of the original aircraft and smaller models that do not face excessive aerodynamic forces during flight. Due to the mechanical nature of such controls, manual operation is required. In general, mechanical control systems are composed of cables, torque tubes, and push-pull tubes that ensure proper functionality of various surfaces and parts. The cable system is the most popular type, ensuring that operations are not affected by the various deflections of the structure that it is attached to. Combinations of each type may also be used as well, such assemblies encompassing linkages, cable assemblies and guides, adjustable stops, mechanical locking devices, and control surface snubbers. Surface locking devices, also known as gust locks, are crucial for the safety of an aircraft while it is parked as they prevent damage to adjustable surfaces as a result of external wind force.

For larger aircraft with heavier surfaces, mechanical linkages are often insufficient for proper actuation and control. In such instances, aerodynamic forces must be overcome with increased power, that of which may be provided by a hydromechanical control system. With a spring tab, the airflow moving over a primary control surface may be harnessed for adjusting positions, though such methods are only feasible while in speed ranges between 250-300 mph. When surpassing such speeds, a hydraulic control system may be relied on.

 The hydraulic system may be linked together with more conventional mechanical cables and tubes, ensuring that pressurized hydraulic fluids may be relied on for extra power. As hydraulics can greatly increase power and efficiency, pilots will be unable to feel the various aerodynamic forces that are exerted on control surfaces. As such, there is an increased risk of causing a structure to become overstressed. To prevent such hazards, aircraft engineers specifically design hydromechanical systems with artificial feel systems so that there is a resistance to various controls when traveling at higher airspeeds. In other instances, a stick shaker may be implemented for the means of creating an artificial stall warning for the pilot when unsafe operating conditions are reached.

The final major flight control system type is the fly-by-wire control system, that of which carries out control system adjustments through the use of electronic signals that serve to relay pilot actions from a computer to flight control actuators. With the fly-by-wire system, various drawbacks of the hydromechanical system could be remedied, including the system weight, reliability, and maintenance cost. One of the major benefits of the fly-by-wire system is its ability to remain consistent throughout fluctuating flight conditions, capable of responding to changes through various control movement adjustments. Furthermore, the introduction of computers also allows for stalling and spinning to be further prevented through programming. Computerized fly-by-wire systems have radically changed our capabilities of flight, allowing for high-performance military aircraft to conduct maneuvers and procedures otherwise impossible with other control systems.

Whether you require cable guide components, hydraulic system parts, cable assemblies, or other such flight control system products, look no further than NSN Parts Now. NSN Parts Now is an online distributor of aircraft parts, providing customers access to an unrivaled inventory containing over 2 billion new, used, obsolete, and hard-to-find components. Take the time to explore our ever-expanding part catalogs at your leisure, and all items are readily available for purchase at any time. To receive a competitive quote for your comparisons, fill out and submit an Instant RFQ form as provided on our website. After receiving a completed form, our team members will reach out to you in just 15 minutes or less with a personalized quote for your comparisons. Give us a call or email today and experience how we can fulfill all your operational needs with ease at NSN Parts Now.


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