Airplanes often turn to change direction. There are many different forces, however, acting against airplanes. Along with gravity, there’s drag, lift and thrust, all of which can affect an airplane’s trajectory. Airplanes can still turn when flying. They are designed with several components that allow for midair turning. How do airplanes turn when flying exactly?
The Basics of Turning
There are many different types of turns pilots can make. A shallow turn, for example, is defined as any turn with a bank angle of less than 20 degrees. A steep turn, on the other hand, is any turn with a bank angle that’s more than 45 degrees. Shallow turns have a shorter angle than their steep counterparts, making them easier for pilots to perform. A third type of turn is a medium-banked turn. Medium-banked turns fall somewhere in the middle. They are defined as any turn with a bank angle of 20 to 45 degrees.
Whether a pilot is performing a shallow, medium or steep turn, he or she will likely use the airplane’s ailerons and rudders. Ailerons are small flaps on an airplane’s wings. Most airplanes have a pair of ailerons — one on each wing. When turning, the pilot will engage the wheel to raise one of the ailerons while simultaneously lowering the other aileron. The alternating positions of the airplane’s ailerons allow the airplane to roll towards the left or right side. Airplanes have a wheel inside the cockpit that controls the ailerons. Turning this wheel will engage the ailerons, thus turning to the airplane.
In addition to ailerons, pilots use a rudder pedal to turn airplanes. The rudder pedal, of course, controls the airplane’s rudder. Most airplanes have a single rudder on the tail. The rudder is similar to an aileron except it’s a vertical flap-like component. Ailerons, on the other hand, are horizontal flap-like components. Pilots can control the rudder by pressing one of two rudder pedals. The left rudder pedal turns to the rudder to the left, whereas the right rudder pedal turns the rudder to the right.
How Airplanes Turn on Runways
Airplanes turn on runways using a similar method that allows them to turn in the air. Pilots can press the rudder pedals to turn, for instance. With the rudder pointing in the right direction, airplanes can turn on runways, even if they are being taxied. With that said, pilots don’t use the ailerons to turn on runways; they only use the rudder.