What are Rudder Pedals Used For?

An aircraft’s motion in flight is dynamic and controlled by a series of different parts. Unlike other modes of transportation, airplanes move in a three-dimensional plane. The three axes that an aircraft can rotate in are yaw, pitch, and roll. Movement on any axis will shift the center of gravity and require a counter-movement to maintain a level and comfortable flight. While pilots manipulate many different aerodynamic devices to maintain level flight, this blog will focus on an often overlooked part called the rudder.

Before trying to understand the principal use of rudders while flying, one must first familiarize themselves with the concept of adverse yaw. In flight, pilots turn the aircraft by causing an uneven amount of lift between the two wings. For example, if a pilot wanted to turn to the left, they would increase the lift in their right wing, causing the plane to roll toward the left. This change in lift is created by a flight control surface called an aileron. Since there is always a reactionary force when moving upon any axis, the wing producing more lift will produce more drag. The consequence of drag is that the nose of the plane will be off-centered and pushed sideways. This force is called adverse yaw and should be avoided as it can cause a sideways G force which can be uncomfortable and detracts from a steady flight.

Rudders are used to overcome this adverse yaw. They work by turning and creating their own lift, opposite to the drag caused by the wing. This counterbalance stops the nose from turning off-center and allows for a steady roll. The aircraft’s rudders are controlled by two rudder pedals which are mounted to the floorboard at the pilot’s feet. Once the pedals are depressed, the rudder, which is attached to the empennage, deflects in the same direction as the pedal pushed. For example, when the right pedal is pushed down, the rudder is deflected right. In small aircraft such as a Cessna, the pedals are connected directly to the rudder by a mechanical linkage. Like most flight controls in jet aircraft, the rudder is controlled by hydraulics and is therefore dependent on provided power in order to move. Aircraft designers tried to make planes independent of rudder pedals in which the rudder moved in unison with the aileron, but this design never caught on.

According to a survey completed by the FAA in 2010, many pilots were not clear on the appropriate and manufacturer recommended use of rudders and felt like they needed more training. Additionally, many flight simulators used by pilots in training don’t come with rudders at all. Clearly, there is a continuing need to emphasize the importance of this overlooked flight mechanism.

The frequent and proper use of rudders is paramount in making a flight smooth and safe. Aviation Sphere is a distributor of aircraft parts, including rudder pedals and accessories. We took the legwork out of finding the most trusted and reliable network of global manufacturers. Please search our database by part number, type, manufacturer, CAGE code, or NSN to find the new or obsolete parts needed for your operation. Aviation Sphere, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, is an FAA AC 00-56B accredited and ISO 9001:2015 certified enterprise. Our sales team is available 24/7x365 to help meet your unique needs. For a quick and competitive quote, contact our sales team at +1-714-705-4780 or email sales@aviation-sphere.com.


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