Aviation Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for aircraft pilots, mechanics, and enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I saw that some aircraft's rudder is composed of an upper rudder and a lower rudder (B727, A380, ...) as illustrated:

Flight control

Image Source

I wonder how does it work compare to a normal rudder and what are the pros and cons of the two-parts rudder over the one-part rudder?

share|improve this question
up vote 30 down vote accepted

This is called Split Rudder and it provides redundancy. They run on different systems so if one fails, the other one can be used.

Here is a picture of a split rudder:

Split Rudder

Split rudders also provide a finer high speed control, in that only the lower one moves at high speed, reducing the exposed surface area and therefore the control effect.

Very importantly, there is a structural benefit. When we use the rudder it imposes a twisting load on the vertical fin. By only using the lower rudder, when the aircraft is at high speed, we reduce the twisting moment and transfer that load to a bigger, stronger, part of the airframe. The principle is the same as why the outboard ailerons are disabled at high speed.

The patent information is here.

share|improve this answer
To add a little context, in case a reader misses the significance... The rudder is the only control surface for which an aircraft only has one. Almost all aircraft have two sets of flaps, ailerons, elevators etc... Although it's possible to fly most aircraft without a rudder (or other control surface), it's not a comfortable experience and a split rudder makes this situation less likely. – Jon Story Oct 20 '14 at 23:45
@JonStory In case of twin tail airplanes, there are two rudders. – Farhan Oct 20 '14 at 23:55
Very true, I'll concede that point although I'll counter that there aren't too many twin tail aircraft around. Worth noting next time you're in a P-38 Lightning though :p – Jon Story Oct 20 '14 at 23:56
Seems surprising that you can get a patent (filed in 1995!) for a split rudder design. Seems so basic and so obvious. Of course, the patent system is broken but still... – RoboKaren Apr 4 '15 at 4:23

As pointed out by Farhan, it adds redundancy to the aircraft.

A 747 once experienced a rudder hard over. Even with the split rudder design, the crew had to rely on asymmetrical thrust to control the aircraft. If it had one very large rudder surface, control would be much more difficult, or may even be impossible.

share|improve this answer

It allows one part to jam while the pilot retains control over the other part.

Also the higher portion of the rudder induces roll when deflected, at high speeds (where control surface deflection is more effective) only the lower portion can be deflected to minimize this effect.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.