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Why are the cockpit controls of airplanes so complicated?

I would argue that the controls of an aircraft are not complicated, but rather that they are simply foreign to you. In the vast majority of cases, the various controls in the aircraft do one thing: ...
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76 votes

What is the motivation behind designing a control stick that does not move?

The stick does not need to move in order for the pilots to sense their inputs! Humans have very accurate force sensors in their fingers, and no direct position sensors. Proprioception provides ...
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69 votes

Why are the cockpit controls of airplanes so complicated?

As has been pointed out in a previous answer, the cockpit is a user interface. My belief is that it is virtually impossible to design any user interface that is user-friendly to both novice and ...
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69 votes
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How dissimilar are redundant flight control computers?

As far as Airbus is concerned: Each unit is composed of two dissimilar boards, one driving the output and the other checking it. Dissimilar means both different CPUs and chipsets (A320 uses i386 (...
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64 votes
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Why force the nose of 737 Max down in the first place?

The main thing to avoid in aeroplane stability & control, is an aerodynamic nose up moment that is not commanded by the pilot. The uncommanded nose-up moment would not auto-stabilise, but rapidly ...
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55 votes
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Why do airplanes not have manual transmission?

Aircraft have fixed gears (when they have gears at all)! However in a sense a variable-pitch propeller can be considered analogous to transmission in a car and it was manual in some aircraft. The ...
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52 votes
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Are fighter jets designed to be so inherently unstable that a human can't fly one unassisted?

My short answer: Stability is reduced by shifting the center of gravity aft. Shifting it past the neutral point makes the airplane unstable, so movements away from the trimmed state are accelerated. ...
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How do hot air balloon pilots avoid collisions?

I grew up in a family hot air ballooning business, and while I haven't been involved in a few years, I can answer your question in two words: They don't! Taking Off As far as collisions go, the other ...
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47 votes

Why do flight control cables not slacken during the cold temperatures at cruise?

If you look closely at your drawing you will see the cables are not really simple pull cables but really act like steel belts. That is, there is a pulley at each end and when you actuate the control ...
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46 votes

Why are the cockpit controls of airplanes so complicated?

99% of the information provided by all of those gauges, and 90% of the possible positions of all of those controls, are not necessary on a typical flight. You CAN take off, fly, and land, with just ...
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46 votes

Why do airplanes not have manual transmission?

Because most aircraft engines do not have geared transmission at all: Image from wiki The power is directly transmitted from the turbine to the compressor with a rigid shaft. It is true, though, ...
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46 votes
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Why is the UH-60 tail rotor canted?

John K and Koyovis's answers are both correct. However, as a former pilot of the UH-60 and a mechanical engineer here is a simpler version. A helicopter must be balanced. If the front is much ...
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43 votes

Why are the cockpit controls of airplanes so complicated?

The controls of an airplane don't have to be complicated. Here is a typical modern glider control panel: These instruments are: (top left) Variometer (shows relative climb/sink, only really useful ...
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43 votes

Can airliners land with auto pilot in gusty wind conditions?

To the first part of your question, the airplane is not moving BECAUSE his yoke movements are "strong and fast". Experienced pilots can feel a gust and respond with a control input to ...
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43 votes
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How and why can multiple people control the Boeing B-29?

In aircraft of this vintage, all the controls are mechanically interconnected. If the left-hand pilot's control yoke/ wheel moves, so does the right-hand pilot's. Likewise for the rudder pedals. ...
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41 votes
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Does a plane have brakes to stop or slow down while flying?

An airplane can slow down and reduce its speed while in flight. The easiest way to do so is to reduce the amount of thrust that the engines are producing. This will produce an almost immediate ...
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41 votes
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Why are the controls of transport category aircraft much heavier than light aircraft?

The control forces are there by design. All airliners have artificial force feel from springs, dampers etc. A B747 flies through the skies a lot faster than a Cessna 172 and bad things could happen ...
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40 votes
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Is it possible to stall a plane so badly that the nose refuses to go down due to lack of airspeed?

Yes it's called a Deep Stall, and is mostly a problem with T Tail aircraft, especially jets with Supercritical Airfoil wings (like the CRJ Regional Jet line). Such wings stall from the leading edge ...
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39 votes
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What is the advantage of the two-part rudder and how does it work?

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 rudders also provide a ...
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39 votes
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What's the purpose of yawing?

From a totally practical standpoint, let's say you're in a small tricycle gear aircraft with a freely castoring nose wheel (or a tail dragger) and you're starting your takeoff roll in a calm wind. ...
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39 votes

How dissimilar are redundant flight control computers?

Redundancy is not only achieved by multiplying the computers, but also by diversifying them. On Airbus airliners, two different computers are used (one with Intel chips, the other with Motorola chips ...
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38 votes
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Can a plane bank without turning?

Yes it can. The steady-heading sideslip (SHSS) maneuver is used in flight testing to demonstrate static lateral/directional stability (similar maneuvers exist as sideslip approach in crosswind, or ...
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37 votes

In the early days of flight, were there any cockpit control schemes other than the modern one?

The Dunne D.8 used a pair of levers, each controlling one elevon.
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36 votes
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How is a seaplane steered on water?

Seaplanes mostly have water rudders that are used at lower speeds and are retractable (actually, they tilt out of the water flow). At higher speeds, like takeoff runs and landings, high speed taxis, ...
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36 votes
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Is it possible to sail a seaplane?

You can sail a seaplane, but there are a lot of considerations. For starters, it makes a big difference as to whether you're talking about a seaplane where the hull is in the water or a floatplane. A ...
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36 votes

How do hot air balloon pilots avoid collisions?

The perspective on that photo makes it hard to tell, but it looks like many of the balloons are still on the ground. So it's not quite as chaotic as it appears. There is no direct horizontal control....
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35 votes

When might a pilot hand-fly a jet at cruise altitudes, and is it difficult?

For 747-100 and -200 aircraft at 35,000 ft and above, you can do it, but it's hard to keep the airplane within 100 feet of the assigned altitude, and you typically can't do that (or at least I couldn'...
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34 votes
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How does the Airbus flight computer's voting system work?

As far as I read in various documents about A320 and remember them correctly: There are three systems handling different parts of the primary flight control: ELAC (elevator & aileron computer) ...
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34 votes
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Why aren't there simplified fly-by-wire helicopter controls?

Helicopter manufacturers seem to have been slow to adopt fly-by-wire systems. I used to work in the General Dynamics group which designed the fly-by-wire system for the F-16. That was the first ...
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Would a wireless fly by wire system be practical?

The fly-by-wire is absolutely vital for control of the aircraft, and the three dominating factors here are safety, safety and safety. Weight is not one of them. The fly-by-wire system is triple or ...
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