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7 Ways To Roll Aircraft Without Ailerons

If you're like us, you're used to rolling aircraft with ailerons. But that isn't the only way to do it.

1) Wing Warping

Before there were ailerons, there was wing warping. Aircraft like the Wright Flyer twisted the outboard portion of the wing to change the angle of attack and roll the aircraft. Unfortunately, wing warping stresses the aircraft, creates heavy control loads, and risks asymmetric wing stall. Most aircraft designers abandoned wing warping in the first 15 years of powered flight.


2) Differential Spoilers

Some aircraft like the MU-2 have most of their wing trailing edge covered in flaps, leaving little room for ailerons. The solution? Spoilers. By spoiling airflow on one wing, the wing lowers and the aircraft rolls. Problem solved.

Josh Beasley

3) Rudder Induced Roll

Some aircraft don't have any roll control, and use the rudder to get the job done. How do they work? They typically have high wing dihedral to stabilize the aircraft. By pressing the rudder back and forth, the you can effectively change the angle of attack on your wings, causing the airplane to roll as it yaws. It's not very efficient, but it works.

4) Weight-Shift

Here's a technique commonly used in ultralights and hang gliders. Weight shifting increases the load on one wing, and twists it. The wing twist decreases the angle of attack, and the aircraft begins to roll.


5) Asymmetric Thrust

United Airlines Flight 232 is one of the best examples of this. By asymmetrically adjusting power on a multi-engine airplane, you can roll left and right.

Aero Icarus

6) Reaction Control Valves

How do you roll when you don't have airflow on your ailerons? Reaction control valves. The Harrier jet is a prime example of this, using vectored thrust to roll left and right during hover and slow speed operations.

UK Ministry of Defence

7) Top Rudder

The British Army Aeroplane No 1 used something called 'top rudder'. It was exactly what it sounds like. Designers mounted a rudder above the wing that pivoted on its vertical axis. By moving it back and forth, the aircraft would roll. It's another example of an inefficient control technique, but it got the job done.

Colin Cutler

Colin is a Boldmethod co-founder, pilot and graphic artist. He's been a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, an airline pilot on the CRJ-200, and has directed development of numerous commercial and military training systems. You can reach him at

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