MA Aviation Historical Society Inc.
PO Box 457
Wakefield MA 01880-0957

Telephone: 781.662.1253


  Aeroplane Flight Control Systems 1903 - 1918

The Wright System

The glider style, shifting body weight approach to flight control used by early aeronautical experimenters was replaced in 1903 in the Wright’s first powered aircraft with a vertical lever on each side of the aviator to permit the control of the aeroplanes in the three axes of flight. 
 The left lever moved the elevator; pushing forward lowered the front of the aircraft, pulling back raised the front of the aircraft. The right lever warped the wings and moved the linked rudder for turns; forward for left, backward for right. Additional rudder control came from a forced left or right motion of this lever.

The Curtiss System

An automobile type steering wheel replaced the Wright’s left lever, with forward or backward motions controlling the pitch up or down, and rudder activation by turning the wheel left or right. A shoulder yoke replaced the Wright’s right lever, the aviator leaning in the direction of the turn caused the yoke’s cables to work the ailerons.

The Deperdussin System

      The “Dep” system, created in 1910 by Armand Deperdussin, is the basis for the flight controls of today. A Curtiss-type steering wheel handled pitch and roll, and a foot operated rudder bar handled the yaw: Left foot = left turn and right foot = right turn. The foot bar was soon replaced by individual rudder pedals. Following that change, a simple stick with full circular motion, replaced the steering wheel in most smaller aircraft. Known as the “joystick” in the early days of aviation, it in the late 20th Century it became simply “The Stick” and flight time was referred to as: “Stick Time” The demonstration of the control stick’s intuitive operation impressed the military services and this improved “Dep” system became the system of choice in the Unites States by 1914. That year the   U. S. Navy placed in its new aircraft contracts a requirement to have all new aircraft to be delivered with the Deperdussin control system installed.        



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