What facts about military pilots and engineers can be known for a project on aviation?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Pilots are people who are responsible for operating the controls of an aircraft while in flight. Simple aircraft will only require manual control of the aircraft's parts. As aircraft becomes more and more complex, an aircraft will be operated by both manual and computerized control systems, so a military pilot needs to be able to control an aircraft using multiple complex systems. A military pilot can often have more tasks to do than just control an aircraft, and those tasks can include leading and training a crew, handling weaponry, and being able to navigate special missions ("Pilot (aeronautics)"; U.S. Air Force, Careers, "Pilot").

There are three primary flight control surfaces that a military pilot needs to be able to control: the ailerons, the elevator stabilator, and the rudder. The ailerons are attached to the outer edges of an aircraft's wings, move in opposing directions to each other, and can be used to make the aircraft roll. If we move the right aileron upward, we lower the right wing; moving the left aileron downward raises the left wing. Movements of the right or left wing cause the aircraft to roll (FAA, "Chapter 5: Flight Controls"). The elevator, also called either a slab elevator or stabilator, is usually located on the aircraft's tail and controls either lowering or raising the aircraft's tail, respectively making the aircraft's nose lower and rise, causing the aircraft to either fall or climb in altitude. In T-tail configurations, the elevator is situated above the tail in a T position; T-tail configurations are popular for both light and large aircraft ("Elevator (aeronautics)"; "Chapter 5"). The rudder of an aircraft is usually attached to the fin of the aircraft's tale, and is used to control adverse yaw. Rolling the aircraft by using the ailerons can also create more drag; we call that drag "adverse yaw" ("Rudder"; "Chapter 5").

The fastest aircraft, such as military aircraft, are operated by a control system we call fly-by-wire and even what we call double-redundant and even tipple-redundant systems. In terms of engineering, redundancy means that a system has been designed in such a way that its most critical functions have been duplicated so that the system has a way to operate regardless of system failure. If a military aircraft has a double-redundant control system, the aircraft will have both a fly-by-wire control system and a hydraulics control system. The currently operating air defense jet called the Fairchild Republic 1-10 Thunderbolt II has a double-redundant hydraulic flight system ("Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II").

With a fly-by-wire control system, the pilot controls the the primary flight control surfaces using an electrical interface.  Pilots can control the aircraft's movements by sending signals to the computer using a sidestick, which is much like a "game controller." However, the system enables the aircraft to "sense movement changes in the pitch, roll and yaw axes" and respond to those movements without having received signals from the pilot ("fly-by-wire").

Hydraulic systems use fluids to operate the primary flight control surfaces and other primary parts, including "landing gear, flaps, flight control surfaces, and brakes" (FAA, "Chapter 12: Hydraulic and Pneumatic Power Systems"). Hydraulic operating systems can be simple if hydraulics is only needed to manually operate the aircraft and breaks but can also be very complex for large and complex aircraft. A hydraulic system will also be equipped with redundancies to ensure operation in the case of malfunction, which means the hydraulic system will also be composed of many subsystems. As the FAA handbook phrases it, "Each subsystem has a power generating device (pump) reservoir, accumulator, heat exchanger, filtering system, etc." (FAA, "Chapter 12").

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