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Pilot Overcomes Aileron Failure During A Steep Turn

If your ailerons jammed during a turn, how would you handle it?


NASA Report: Aileron Jam After A Steep Turn

A flight control failure is an emergency no pilot wants to face. While rare, control failures can be managed by using other control surfaces, trim, and doing some in-flight testing before final approach.

System failures can happen in small aircraft, and this report serves as an example of what you can do if you're ever caught in the same situation:

I was doing a rigging check for Aircraft X. My pre-flight was thorough to make sure the aircraft was safe to fly. I did the run-up and control check and everything appeared to be normal. At this point I made the decision to fly and contacted ATC for a VFR clearance to the northwest at 4,500 ft. The taxi, takeoff and climb and initial cruise were all normal with no abnormal indications. Once I was clear of the Bravo airspace at 4,500 ft. I then proceeded to do a set of steep turns to verify the rigging of the aircraft.

As I was rolling wings level from the left steep turn I noticed the aileron controls seemed to be jammed. I initially used rudder to stop the turn and then began to go through all the controls. At this point I realized that the entire control stick was jammed. I then began troubleshooting and started with the emergency checklist to see what it said and then I pulled up the POH on my iPad to see what the POH said. There was nothing listed so I then began trying to control the airplane and see what I could do.

I had rudder to control turns and throttle to control pitch. I then tried flap settings to see how the aircraft would respond at this point I realized flaps 50 was about the most that I wanted to have a good pitch attitude and maintain control. I notified ATC and declared and emergency and explained what was going on. ATC gave me vectors for the ILS XXL and I was able to join the localizer using the rudder to guide the aircraft. I contacted Dispatch to talk with a mechanic to see if they had any ideas as to what I should do that could possibly clear the jam in the control stick. At this point I knew I was going to have to land the aircraft with the configuration I had.

I proceeded towards the airport on the ILS XXL and eventually saw the airport. At no time did I enter clouds during the flight. ATC gave me the ILS just in case. Once I was across ZZZZZ inbound to ZZZ, ATC handed me off to Tower. Upon contacting Tower, they alerted me that the winds were 160 at 8 kts. and offered me clearance to land [Runway] XY. I accepted the clearance then began a turn towards [the] lake to set up for a wide base to XY. At this point I was using power to descend and flaps at 50% to descend as stable as possible. I turned final and felt the approach was almost as stable as a normal approach and continued to the runway. On final I used power and rudder to adjust the aircraft and make it as straight and as stable as possible. I touched down relatively flat and firm and this jarred the controls loose. The remainder of the rollout and taxi was normal.


Using Your Other Control Surfaces

If you experience a flight control jam or failure, using your other control surfaces is the key to controlling your aircraft, like the pilot in the report above found.

Using trim may be another option. Whether it's elevator trim, aileron trim, or rudder trim, using trim may be an option to exert at least some control over the jammed surface. Keep in mind, trim may have the opposite effect that you expect when you're trimming a jammed control surface.


Other Flight Control Failures

We've written about flight control failures before, and here's a set of links to learn more about each one:

Have you ever experienced a control jam or control failure? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.

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