Six Aerodynamic Facts About Ailerons

An aileron is the hinged surface in the outermost trailing edge of an airplane wing, designed to control the lateral balance of the plane as it cruises through flight, or during its roll. The ailerons and how they function in relation to the aircraft is something that every pilot and/or aircraft enthusiast should know. Read on below for a basic outline of how the ailerons function.

1. Ailerons Cause The Adverse Yaw

When an airplane rolls to the right, the left aileron is tilted down while the right aileron is lifted upwards. This aileron that is in the upward position (the right one) generates less drag (the aerodynamic force that opposes an aircraft's motion through the air) and less lift than the aileron on the opposite side. Meanwhile, the aileron that is angled downward (the left one) creates more drag and more lift, which in turn, yaws the plane in the opposite direction of the roll.

2. Differential Ailerons

Differential ailerons counter adverse yaw. When one aileron is elevated at a greater distance than the other aileron is lowered, the extra skyward movement from the aileron generates more drag difference than the increase on the downward aileron. This difference creates an increase in drag on the descending wing, which reduces adverse yaw.

3. Frise Ailerons

Frise ailerons are the bottom of the up-aileron that pivots into the airstream. The frise ailerons creates a form drag. The aileron being raised pivots on an offset hinge. The leading edge of the aileron is now pushed into the airflow, creating drag and reducing adverse yaw. In this case, frise ailerons are using form drag to counter induced drag.

4. Using Ailerons During A Stall

When you use ailerons during a stall, you can cause the wing to drop. As you deflect the aileron, you can change the angle-of-attack (AOA) on each of the wingtips. Your left wing is now flying at a lower AOA, while the right wing is flying at a higher AOA. If you add enough aileron deflection, you can push the right wing over the critical AOA, abruptly stalling the entire wing, and causing your airplane to suddenly roll to the right.

5. Ailerons Create Induced Drag

Similar to flaps, the aileron, when lowered, can alter the chord line of the wing, thus creating a higher AOA. As the lift and AOA increases, so does the induced drag. this is because the drag created by the aileron being lowered is the induced drag.

6. Neutralize Ailerons During A Spin

Each wing is stalled during a spin. But the low wing is at a higher angle of attack than the high wing. Bringing both ailerons to neutral helps the wings reach the same angle of attack and thus helps them decrease pitch and roll.


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