December 2010 Issue

Got Rudder?

It’s not used to turn the airplane, but to counter adverse yaw produced when ailerons are deflected.

During checkouts of rated pilots, I usually ask them to explain why the rudder is on the airplane. More than half of rated pilots will tell me the rudder helps turn the aircraft, which is not only wrong but is a very dangerous belief. Less than half of pilots will correctly identify the main purpose of the rudder, to correct for adverse yaw. By failing to correctly understanding the rudder’s purpose, these pilots exhibit a failure in our training system. Moreover, by misusing the airplane’s primary controls, they aren’t flying it properly or efficiently. This realization has many implications—an indictment of our training systems among them—but the dangers of misusing the rudder also must be acknowledged. Let’s discuss the rudder’s proper role, plus the effects and dangers of misusing primary controls.

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