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  • A pilot has a lot to remember and adjust when they are flying a plane. He must take into account the four forces of flight when he makes these adjustments. The four forces of flight affect how an airplane moves through the air. These four forces are called lift, drag, gravity and thrust. Sometimes gravity is referred to as the "weight" of the plane. In order to fly a plane, a pilot has to understand how these four forces work on an airplane in flight and use them to help the plane fly correctly. So how does the airplane fly through the air? How do each of these four forces help or hamper the plane in flight?

    Pretend You Are a Plane

    If you pretend that your arms are wings and your body is the plane, when you move one wing down as you move the other wing up, this is the same thing a pilot does to change direction of the plane. This "roll" helps change the direction of the plane. By dropping one wing down, or yawing toward that side, the plane begins to turn into the direction of the yaw. When you tilt your nose up, in the same way a pilot raises the plane's nose, this is called raising the "pitch" of the plane. When a plane is in the air, all these four forces and dimensions combined together help the pilot to control the plane and the direction in which it flies.

    Special Controls

    To fly the plane, the pilot must use special controls. He uses buttons and levers to control the dip of the plane's wings, or the plane's yaw, roll and pitch. When the pilot needs to roll the plane to the right or to the left, he adjusts little flaps called ailerons on each wing on either side of the plane. To roll in one direction, the aileron on one wing must be raised, while the aileron on the other wing must be dropped. The wing with the raised aileron puts drag on that wing so it begins to drop, while the wing with the lowered aileron experiences lift and the wing rises. When this happens, the plane begins to turn into the direction of the wing with the raised aileron.

    The pitch of the plane makes it climb into the air when it is raised, and descends in the air when it is lowered. The pilot adjusts the pitch by adjusting the tail's elevators to make this happen. Each elevator is a little flap that lifts up and down. The elevator is on a little wing that extends from the tail of the plane on each side of the tail. When the pilot lowers the elevators, the plane's nose begins to drop, sending the plane down toward the Earth. When he changes the elevators by raising them, the plane begins to climb in the air. You can see this at an airport when a plane is taking off by looking at the plane's tail.

    Planes Have Rudders

    Like a ship at sea, a plane has a rudder. The rudder is at the back of the plane on the tail. At the far back of the tail, the rudder turns side to side. On a ship, the rudder sticks down into the water, opposite to the rudder's position on the plane. Instead of adjusting to the currents in the water, the pilot uses the rudder to adjust the plane on the air currents. The pilot uses yaw to turn the plane; when the rudder is turned to a particular side, the plane moves in that direction. The rudder and the nose of the plane both point in the same direction. The pilot then uses both the ailerons on the wings and turns the rudder to make a turn in the air.

    To control the direction of the rudder, the pilot uses two pedals pushed by their feet. When they push the right pedal, the rudder moves right. When he pushes the left pedal, the rudder moves left and so does the plane. He must also raise and lower the ailerons to complete the turn.


    The thrust of the plane comes from the plane's engines. The pilot controls the thrust by using a stick called the throttle. When the pilot pushes the throttle, he increases the thrust or power of the plane. When he pulls back on the throttle, the plane slows down. There's a lot the pilot must remember when he's flying a plane, which keeps him pretty busy during the process. To find out more about how planes fly and more info about airplanes, click on any of the links below: