When aircraft are in flight, the various control surfaces are carefully oriented in the right direction to effectively direct the airstream. But when they are on the ground, what is there to keep the flaps from moving in the wind? Though the control surfaces are designed to handle harsh conditions, the random movements caused by a gust of wind, jet blast, or propeller blast on the ground can damage them. As a result, most aircraft have some kind of mechanism for preventing, or at least limiting, flight control surface movement when parked. One such system is flight control locks or “gust locks,” which may be fitted externally or otherwise form a part of the internal mechanical system.
Most larger aircraft do not require a gust lock system because they normally have powered flight control surfaces with residual damping action that is powerful enough to keep them stable during parking periods. However, on lighter aircraft, the control flaps are often controlled manually; therefore, they require an additional locking mechanism. Often, an aileron/elevator control lock is fitted to one of the control columns. Control columns are the airplane levers that operate the elevators by a fore-and-aft motion and the ailerons by turning a wheel mounted at the upper end of the lever. In addition, there is sometimes a way of preventing rudder pedal movement in a similar fashion.
Alternatively, some businesses and smaller transport aircraft that do not have fully powered flight control systems have a gust lock lever in the flight deck which is regularly set when the aircraft is parked. Planes may also be fitted with a set of external gust locks for use when extreme winds are expected or for use when parked for long periods of time. These locks are more difficult and timely to remove but offer a much more sturdy hold on the control surface, so that it will not move, even in harsh weather.
Aside from engaging the control locks, pilots may also orient the aircraft nose into the wind to further prevent issues. This orientation keeps the flaps from being forced against the direction they usually operate which could cause damage to the attachment parts. Pilots and crew may also tie down light aircraft or fully chock all landing gear in the case of larger aircraft. In this case, chocking means to place a wedge or block against the wheels to prevent them from moving.
As one might expect, it is essential that all flight control locks are removed or disengaged before flight. Failure to do so can seriously limit the ability of the pilot to affect the plane’s turning abilities and direction control in flight. Control locks which are fitted or engaged in the flight deck should normally be removed before starting engines, and on all aircraft, the confirmation of free flight control movement should always be made before takeoff.
Control locks are an important tool in aviation for keeping control surfaces in a locked position while an aircraft is parked. If you are in the market for aircraft gust locks and other quality-tested components, Aviation Orbit has you covered. With a vast inventory of parts from trusted leading manufacturers on our Approved Vendor List (AVL), our customers rely on us for top-notch items delivered with rapid lead times. More than that, you may request a competitive quote for your comparisons on any items of interest simply by submitting an Instant RFQ form online with details about your particular fulfillment needs. With representatives on standby, you can expect a response tailored to your specific needs in 15 minutes or less!
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