How to Steer an Airplane on the Ground

The term for an airplane on the ground navigating an airstrip or runway is called taxiing. However, this term does not include the high-speed run an aircraft takes on the runway before taking off and the decelerating run just after landing. When moving on a runway, large aircraft are steered with the help of a tiller. An aircraft tiller is a steering wheel in the cockpit that works similarly to a car steering wheel but looks nothing like it. The tiller is actually a small wheel or crank that lies usually to the side of the pilot and can be operated with one hand (two hands are not required) to turn the wheels of an aircraft.

Tillers are present usually on large commercial aircraft only. Smaller planes do not have the hardware required to turn their wheels so they utilize a technique called Differential braking to change direction. Pilots brake the wheels on one side of an airplane causing it to pivot around that wheel and create new direction.

When high speeds are reached at landing or take off, differential braking and tiller steering is no longer an option. The only way to make minor course direction at such high speeds is by using a plane’s rudder. The Rudder is Located at the back of an aircraft and is the symmetrical wing turned on its end that looks like a shark fin. The pilot can control the rudder’s left/right movement, which in turn helps to make small course corrections at high speeds. Rudder Steering is also used during flight. It is important to note that rudder steering is only used for tiny adjustments in direction and is most commonly used to remain on a straight path before takeoff and after landing.


December 15, 2022

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