Last updated
Airbus A380 flight deck with black side-sticks on the left side of the left seat and on the right side of the right seat. The throttle controls in the central console are black, labeled 1-4. Airbus A380 cockpit.jpg
Airbus A380 flight deck with black side-sticks on the left side of the left seat and on the right side of the right seat. The throttle controls in the central console are black, labeled 1-4.
F-16 cockpit showing side-stick F-16D cockpit at EFKA.jpg
F-16 cockpit showing side-stick

A side-stick or sidestick controller is an aircraft control stick that is located on the side console of the pilot, usually on the righthand side, or outboard on a two-seat flightdeck. Typically this is found in aircraft that are equipped with fly-by-wire control systems. [1]


The throttle controls are typically located to the left of a single pilot or centrally on a two-seat flightdeck. Only one hand is required to operate it; two hand operation is neither possible nor necessary.

The side-stick is used in many modern military fighter aircraft, such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, Mitsubishi F-2, Dassault Rafale, and F-22 Raptor, and also on civil aircraft, such as the Sukhoi Superjet 100, Airbus A320 and all subsequent Airbus aircraft, [2] including the largest passenger jet in service, the Airbus A380.

It is also used in new helicopter models such as the Bell 525.

This arrangement contrasts with the more conventional design where the stick is located in the centre of the cockpit between the pilot's legs, called a "centre stick".

In the centre stick design, like traditional airplane yokes, both the pilot's and co-pilot's controls are mechanically connected together so each pilot has a sense of the control inputs of the other. In typical Airbus side-stick implementations, the sticks are independent, the so-called 'passive' side-stick. The plane's computer either aggregates multiple inputs or a pilot can press a "priority button" to lock out inputs from the other side-stick. [3] However, if both side-sticks are moved in different directions at the same time (regardless of which pilot has priority), then both inputs are cancelled out and an aural "dual input" warning sounds. Examples of this occurring include the 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447 (an Airbus A330 flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris), the 2010 crash of Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771 an Airbus A330 from flying Johannesburg to Tripoli [4] [5] and the 2014 crash of Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 (an Airbus A320 flying from Surabaya to Singapore). [6] [7] The "dual input" warning will not activate at very low levels if the EGPWS activates due to its lower priority compared to EGPWS. [8]

Active Side-Sticks

However a later, significant, development is the 'active' side-stick, [9] which is in the new Gulfstream G500/G600 series business jet aircraft. In this system, movements in one side-stick produce the same actions in the other side-stick and therefore provides valuable feedback to the other pilot. This addresses the earlier criticisms of the 'passive' side-stick. The 'active' side-stick also provides tactile feedback [10] to the pilot during manual flight. In fact the three largest avionics manufacturers, Honeywell, Rockwell Collins and Thales, [11] believe it will become the standard for all new fly-by-wire aircraft. In 2015 Ratier-Figeac as a subsidiary of UTC Aerospace Systems, and supplier of ‘passive’ side-sticks to Airbus since the 1980s [12] became the supplier of ‘active’ side-sticks for the Irkut MC-21. [13] This is the first airliner to use them.

Such an 'active' side-stick can also be used to increase adherence to a safe flight envelope by applying a force feedback when the pilot makes a control input that would bring the aircraft closer to (or beyond) the borders of the safe flight envelope. This reduces the risk of pilots entering dangerous states of flights outside the operational borders while maintaining the pilots' final authority and increasing their situation awareness. [14]

See also


Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fly-by-wire</span> Electronic flight control system

Fly-by-wire (FBW) is a system that replaces the conventional manual flight controls of an aircraft with an electronic interface. The movements of flight controls are converted to electronic signals transmitted by wires, and flight control computers determine how to move the actuators at each control surface to provide the ordered response. It can use mechanical flight control backup systems or use fully fly-by-wire controls.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cockpit</span> Area from which a pilot controls an aircraft or vehicle

A cockpit or flight deck is the area, usually near the front of an aircraft or spacecraft, from which a pilot controls the aircraft.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Libyan Airlines</span> Flag carrier of Libya

Libyan Airlines, formerly known as Libyan Arab Airlines over several decades, is the flag carrier of Libya. Based in Tripoli, it operates scheduled passenger and cargo services within Libya and to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, the majority of which leave from Tripoli International Airport. Benina International Airport in Benghazi serves as a secondary base. Libyan Airlines also operates Hajj services. The company is wholly owned by the government of Libya.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ground proximity warning system</span> Alert system meant to prevent pilots from flying or taxiing into obstacles

A ground proximity warning system (GPWS) is a system designed to alert pilots if their aircraft is in immediate danger of flying into the ground or an obstacle. The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) defines GPWS as a type of terrain awareness warning system (TAWS). More advanced systems, introduced in 1996, are known as enhanced ground proximity warning systems (EGPWS), a modern type of TAWS.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aircraft flight control system</span> How aircraft are controlled

A conventional fixed-wing aircraft flight control system (AFCS) consists of flight control surfaces, the respective cockpit controls, connecting linkages, and the necessary operating mechanisms to control an aircraft's direction in flight. Aircraft engine controls are also considered as flight controls as they change speed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Afriqiyah Airways</span> State-owned airline based in Tripoli, Libya

Afriqiyah Airways is a Libyan state-owned airline based in Tripoli, Libya. Before the 17 February 2011 revolution, it operated domestic services between Tripoli and Benghazi, and international scheduled services to over 25 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East; since the end of the war, it has been seeking to rebuild its business. Afriqiyah Airways' main base is technically Tripoli International Airport, although it has been closed since 2014 and flights are operating as much as possible from other airports.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yoke (aeronautics)</span> Aircraft controls

A yoke, alternatively known as a control wheel or a control column, is a device used for piloting some fixed-wing aircraft.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pilot error</span> Decision, action or inaction by a pilot of an aircraft

Pilot error generally refers to an accident in which an action or decision made by the pilot was the cause or a contributing factor that led to the accident, but also includes the pilot's failure to make a correct decision or take proper action. Errors are intentional actions that fail to achieve their intended outcomes. The Chicago Convention defines the term "accident" as "an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft [...] in which [...] a person is fatally or seriously injured [...] except when the injuries are [...] inflicted by other persons." Hence the definition of "pilot error" does not include deliberate crashing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Armavia Flight 967</span> 2006 plane crash in the Black Sea off Sochi, Russia

Armavia Flight 967 was a scheduled international passenger flight operated by Armavia from Zvartnots International Airport, Zvarnots in Armenia to Sochi, a Black Sea coastal resort city in Russia. On 3 May 2006, the aircraft operating the route, an Airbus A320-200, crashed into the sea while attempting a go-around following its first approach to Sochi airport; all 113 aboard were killed. The accident was the first major commercial airline crash in 2006. It was Armavia's first and only fatal crash.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Airbus Industrie Flight 129</span> 1994 Aviation accident

Airbus Industrie Flight 129 was an Airbus Industrie A330-321 test flight that ended in a crash on 30 June 1994 at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport, killing all seven people aboard. The last test flown was to certify the plane's takeoff capability with a single engine failure. It was the first fatal accident involving an Airbus A330 as well as the first hull loss of the type. It remained the only fatal accident involving an A330 until the crash of Air France Flight 447 on 1 June 2009.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bernard Ziegler</span> French engineer (1933–2021)

Bernard Ziegler was a French pilot and engineer, who served in Airbus as senior vice president for engineering, well known for his evangelical zeal for the application of the fly-by-wire system in the Airbuses. He was the son of Airbus founder Henri Ziegler.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Centre stick</span>

A centre stick, or simply control stick is an aircraft cockpit arrangement where the control column is located in the center of the cockpit between the pilots or between the pilot's legs. Since the throttle controls are typically located to the left of the pilot, the right hand is used for the stick, although left-hand or both-hands operation is possible if required.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Flight envelope protection</span>

Flight envelope protection is a human machine interface extension of an aircraft's control system that prevents the pilot of an aircraft from making control commands that would force the aircraft to exceed its structural and aerodynamic operating limits. It is used in some form in all modern commercial fly-by-wire aircraft. The professed advantage of flight envelope protection systems is that they restrict a pilot's excessive control inputs, whether in surprise reaction to emergencies or otherwise, from translating into excessive flight control surface movements. Notionally, this allows pilots to react quickly to an emergency while blunting the effect of an excessive control input resulting from "startle," by electronically limiting excessive control surface movements that could over-stress the airframe and endanger the safety of the aircraft.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Air France Flight 447</span> 2009 mid-Atlantic ocean aircraft crash

Air France Flight 447 was a scheduled international passenger flight from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Paris, France. On 1 June 2009, inconsistent airspeed indications led to the pilots inadvertently stalling the Airbus A330 serving the flight, failing to recover from it and eventually crashing into the Atlantic Ocean at 02:14 UTC, killing all 228 passengers and crew on board.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Flight control modes</span> Aircraft control computer software

A flight control mode or flight control law is a computer software algorithm that transforms the movement of the yoke or joystick, made by an aircraft pilot, into movements of the aircraft control surfaces. The control surface movements depend on which of several modes the flight computer is in. In aircraft in which the flight control system is fly-by-wire, the movements the pilot makes to the yoke or joystick in the cockpit, to control the flight, are converted to electronic signals, which are transmitted to the flight control computers that determine how to move each control surface to provide the aircraft movement the pilot ordered.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771</span> 2010 passenger plane crash in Tripoli, Libya

Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771 was a scheduled international Afriqiyah Airways passenger flight that crashed on 12 May 2010 at about 06:01 local time on approach to Tripoli International Airport, about 1,200 metres short of the runway. Of the 104 passengers and crew on board, 103 were killed. The sole survivor was a 9-year-old Dutch boy. The crash of Flight 771 was the third hull-loss of an Airbus A330 involving fatalities, occurring eleven months after the crash of Air France Flight 447.

The Libyan Civil Aviation Authority is the civil aviation authority of Libya. Its head office is at Tripoli International Airport in Tripoli.

A rudder travel limiter, or rudder limiter, is a controlling device in an aircraft used to mechanically limit the maximum rudder deflection.


  1. Crane, Dale: Dictionary of Aeronautical Terms, third edition, page 463. Aviation Supplies & Academics, 1997. ISBN   1-56027-287-2
  2. "Fly-by-wire - A CIVIL AVIATION FIRST". Airbus / Innovation / Proven concepts / In design / Fly-by-wire. Airbus. Archived from the original on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  3. Getline, Meryl (2005-11-21), "Ask the captain", USA Today
  4. Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Airbus A330-202 5A-ONG Tripoli International Airport (TIP)".
  5. Page 81 "Conclusions" Final Report of AFRIQIYAH Airways Aircraft, Airbus A330-202, 5A-ONG Crash, Occurred at Tripoli (LIBYA)on 12/05/2010 Published February 2013.
  6. "Is Flight 447's 'Fly-by-Wire' Aircraft Technology Safe?". Fox News. 2009-06-12. Retrieved 2013-05-29.
  7. Ross, Nick (2012-04-28), "Air France Flight 447: 'Damn it, we're going to crash'", The Daily Telegraph (article), It seems surprising that Airbus has conceived a system preventing one pilot from easily assessing the actions of the colleague beside him. And yet that is how their latest generations of aircraft are designed. The reason is that, for the vast majority of the time, side-sticks are superb.
  8. Final Report on the investigation into the accident involving the Armavia A320 near Sochi Airport on 3 May 2006, page 48, Published 12 February 2007
  9. "Commercial Active Sticks - An Active Role". BAE Systems | International. Retrieved 2019-08-10.
  10. "BAE Brochure" (PDF).
  11. Dubois, Thierry (29 June 2015). "Cockpits of the Future". Skies magazine. Archived from the original on 6 February 2021. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  12., How Collins Active Control Sidesticks Work – Aviation International News Aug 13, 2019
  13. MC-21 ushers active sidesticks into commercial aircraft cockpits By Stephen Trimble 22 April 2015.
  14. Florian J. J. Schmidt-Skipiol & Peter Hecker (2015). "Tactile Feedback and Situation Awareness-Improving Adherence to an Envelope in Sidestick-Controlled Fly-by-Wire Aircrafts.[sic]". 15th AIAA Aviation Technology, Integration, and Operations Conference: 2905. doi:10.2514/6.2015-2905.