Aircraft rigging is the process of adjusting movable flight controls on major aircraft surfaces like wings and stabilizers. Ailerons, elevators, and rudders are all examples of aircraft rigging gear. Besides the flight controls, rigging is also done to other areas of the aircraft to incorporate engine controls, flight deck controls, and components of retractable landing gear. Attachment of hardware using cotter pins, locknuts, or safety wire is also included in the rigging process.
A well-rigged airplane will provide the most efficient flight. The plane will fly straight and level, sometimes called “hands-off” flight. This occurs when the aircraft rigging is so well done that the plane is able to fly virtually by itself, using only the forces acting on it to stay in flight.
Prior to rigging, an important piece of literature to familiarize yourself with is the aircraft’s Type Certification Data Sheet (TCDS). This sheet offers an in-depth description of your aircraft, engine or propellers. The TCDS is issued by the Federal Aviation Administration and determines whether or not the aircraft qualifies under the appropriate certifications. It lists the capabilities and limitations of your aircraft as well as the parts that are eligible for installation on the product.
The most important part of rigging is obviously the installation itself. Control surfaces require specific hardware to be installed before rigging to ensure the surface does not become damaged during flight. Ailerons, for instance, must be inspected to see that the cables and rods are appropriately routed. The control cables themselves are important rigging gear and must be constructed from carbon or stainless steel. Some manufacturers use a cable coated in nylon. The nylon coat protects the cable from wear and tear in addition to keeping dirt out.
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