Despite their slightly silly name, flaperons are a crucial part of any aircraft that mounts them. As their name implies, flaperons are a combination of flaps and ailerons, both of which are used to control an airplane while in flight.
Ailerons are control surfaces located on the outer trailing edges of an aircraft’s wings and control roll on the longitudinal axis of the aircraft. In simpler terms, they allow the wings to tilt up and down, which in turn lets the aircraft turn left and right. Flaps, meanwhile, are hinged, retractable panels on the wings are that are used to alter the wing’s airfoil and how it affects the movement of air over and under the wing. Lowering flaps creates more lift, which helps the aircraft take off and land more easily. Typically, flaps and ailerons are separate and different components on an aircraft’s wing, but some aircraft, including those manufactured by the Boeing Company, combine the two as flaperons.
Aircraft such as the 777 use flaperons as their primary flight control system. Located on the mid-section trailing edges of the wing, the flaperon is a small but incredibly important component of the aircraft. Used primarily during take off, landing, and slow flight operations, the flaperon helps stabilize the roll of the aircraft. In a retracted position, the flaperon is flush with the wing, and when deployed creates large amounts of drag, serving as a spoiler. This is primarily done during landing operations to slow the aircraft. On smaller aircraft such as kitplanes, flaperons can extend along the entire length of the wing, enabling good roll authority and quick response from aileron input. When the flaperons are extended, they create lots of drag with smaller amounts of roll control.
Flaperons still have the standard separate controls in the cockpit for aileron and flap functions, with a mechanical device called a mixer used to combine the pilot’s inputs into the flaperons. Some aircraft will suspend flaperons below the wing to provide undisturbed airflow at high angles of attack or low airspeeds, helping to maintain control in those situations.
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