The Original Control Systems


The primitive weight-shifting systems used on first-decade aircraft was replaced by a lever on either side of the pilot to account for control of the three axes, as devised by the Wright Brothers.

The left lever moved the elevator; pushing forward lowered the nose, pulling it back raised it. The right one warped the wings and moved the rudder for turns; forward for left, backward for right. Additional rudder control also came from a forced left or right motion of this lever.


An automobile-type steering wheel replaced one of the Wright's levers, with forward and backward motions controlling the pitch, and rudder activation by turning the wheel left or right. A shoulder yoke replaced the other lever—the pilot simply leaned in the direction he wanted to turn, and the yoke's cables worked the ailerons.

Although more instinctive, both it and the Wright systems claimed their share of supporters and detractors, and represented a bit of mental awareness from pilots who hoped to master both Wright and Curtiss machines.


This system, created in 1910 by Armand Déperdussin, is still in use today. A Curtiss-type wheel handled pitch and roll, and a foot-operated rudder bar the yaw—left foot = left turn and right foot = right turn.

Its intuitive operation became the system of choice by 1914, and the foot bar was soon replaced by individual rudder pedals. Then a simple stick, with its full circular motion, replaced the wheel in smaller aircraft. Originally known as "joystick," it was the invention of Oscar Mote in 1919.