What Are Trim Tabs on Airplanes?

Trim tabs have been used in airplanes for decades. Typically found on the outer edges of the ailerons, rudders and elevator, they live up to their namesake by allowing the pilot or pilots to control the airplane’s trim during the flight. Trim tabs are just one of many components found in modern airplanes, but they still play a key role in their overall function. Without trim tabs, pilots would have to exert greater force and energy to stabilize the airplane at high altitudes.

The Purpose of Trim Tabs

Trim tabs are used to reduce the manual energy and work required to stabilize airplanes during flight. Without trim tabs, pilots are forced to hold the yoke with greater force. The pressure and winds of high-altitude flights acts against the airplane. And to control and stabilize the airplane, pilots must hold the yoke steady. Trim tabs make this process a little easier by reducing the amount of force acting against the airplane. By adjusting the trims in the proper positions, pilots can minimize force acting against the airplane, allowing them to hold the yoke steady with greater ease.

Another advantage of using trim tabs is that they protect the airplane from premature wear and tear. If an airplane doesn’t have trim tabs, it will be exposed to greater stress and pressure during flight. Over time, constant exposure to this stress and pressure may cause some of the airplane’s components to fail early.

How Trim Tabs Work

Trim tabs work in a relatively simple manner. Inside the cockpit, the pilot can adjust the airplane’s trim to counter the otherwise destabilizing forces acting against the airplane. Pulling down on the trim lever, for example, spreads out the elevator trim to either the left or right side. Once here, the elevator trim will deflect air, potentially countering the forces against the airplane.

Other Purposes for Trim Tabs

While most commonly associated with airplanes, trim tabs are used in other applications, including boats. In boats, trim tabs are often found on the lower edges of the motor. Like trim tabs found in airplanes, they allow for pitch control. Forces can act against boats just like they can airplanes. With trim tabs installed, however, captains can control their boat with greater ease.

To recap, trim tabs are small, folded extensions found on the ailerons, rudders and elevator of airplanes. They are used so that pilots can control the airplane’s trim to achieve a smoother flight experience.