Function and Operation of Aircraft Spoiler

When flying an aircraft, flight control surfaces are the devices that enable pilots to govern the flight dynamics and attitude of the aircraft. They are located across the aircraft in areas such as the wings, fuselage, tail, and other areas in which aerodynamic forces may be manipulated. During commercial flights, you may have noticed large panels placed on the wings of the aircraft that open during landing operations. These panels, known as spoilers, are important flight control surfaces that are controlled by the pilot to aid in flight and landing.

Unlike other devices that may be used to increase lift, the aircraft spoiler is specifically intended to decrease lift. Spoilers are attached to the aircraft wing with hinges, and they are placed just forward of the flaps. When the pilot activates the spoiler actuator, the spoilers will begin to pivot upwards, placing themselves into the airstream. This causes the airflow that moves over the wing to be disrupted, resulting in a controlled stall over the wing so that the amount of lift is decreased. This is very important to landing operations, as it helps the aircraft begin its descent without causing a decrease in airspeed.

Across aircraft, spoilers may come in one of two types. The first are those that are operated at controlled angles, allowing for the rate of descent to be increased and to control roll while in flight. The other type is used upon landing, deployed to reduce lift and increase drag as lift dumpers. If the aircraft is a modern fly-by-wire aircraft, both functions can be carried out with the same control surfaces. Spoilers are also seen on almost every aircraft, due to their ability to allow pilots to land aircraft more safely.

Lift dumpers are special types of spoilers, extended across most of the length of a wing so that lift can be decreased as much as possible upon landing. To achieve this, lift dumpers shift a majority of the weight onto the aircraft wheels to increase friction and braking, prevent the bouncing effect of aircraft upon landing, and increase the amount of form drag. These spoilers may only be in a deployed or retracted position, and they are almost always deployed automatically once the plane has touched down. With flight deck control settings and capability, the lift spoiler may be raised in fractions of a second when the aircraft lands.

For roll control, the pilot will govern outboard or mid-span spoilers, and descent control is governed by inboard spoilers. Aircraft spoilers may be used alongside, or in place of, ailerons for controlling roll, accommodating for limited rudder input during high speeds. These specific components are called spoilerons, and they are typically operated on one wing at a time, decreasing lift and increasing drag to induce roll and yaw. No matter what type of spoilers are placed on an aircraft, they are almost all used for maintaining attitude during descent operations to control speed and altitude.


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March 22, 2021
December 3, 2020

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