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Guiding an airplane – roll, yaw, pitch

XYZ axisIn an airplane or similar craft, the three axes are called roll, yaw, and pitch. The term heading is sometimes also used for yaw angle.

  1. roll – rotation around the Z axis
  2. yaw – rotation around the Y axis
  3. pitch – rotation around the X axis


To control a plane a pilot uses several instruments…

The pilot controls the engine power using the throttle. Pushing the throttle increases power, and pulling it decreases power.

The ailerons raise and lower the wings. The pilot controls the roll of the plane by raising one aileron or the other with a control wheel. Turning the control wheel clockwise raises the right aileron and lowers the left aileron, which rolls the aircraft to the right.

yawThe rudder works to control the yaw of the plane. The pilot moves rudder left and right, with left and right pedals. Pressing the right rudder pedal moves the rudder to the right. This yaws the aircraft to the right. Used together, the rudder and the ailerons are used to turn the plane.

pitchThe elevators which are on the tail section are used to control the pitch of the plane. A pilot uses a control wheel to raise and lower the elevators, by moving it forward to back ward. Lowering the elevators makes the plane nose go down and allows the plane to go down. By raising the elevators the pilot can make the plane go up.

Source: NASA