Aircraft Rigging – Control Operating Systems (Part Two)

in Aerodynamics, Aircraft Assembly, and Rigging

Cable System Installation
Cable Guides

Pulleys are used to guide cables and also to change the direction of cable movement. Pulley bearings are sealed and need no lubrication other than the lubrication done at the factory. Brackets fastened to the structure of the aircraft support the pulleys. Cables passing over pulleys are kept in place by guards. The guards are close fitting to prevent

jamming or to prevent the cables from slipping off when they slacken due to temperature variations. Pulleys should be examined to ensure proper lubrication; smooth rotation and freedom from abnormal cable wear patterns which can provide an indication of other problems in the cable system. [Figure 2-73]

Figure 2-73. Pulley wear patterns.

Figure 2-73. Pulley wear patterns.

Fairleads may be made from a nonmetallic material, such as phenolic, or a metallic material, such as soft aluminum. The fairlead completely encircles the cable where it passes through holes in bulkheads or other metal parts. Fairleads are used to guide cables in a straight line through or between structural members of the aircraft. Fairleads should never deflect the alignment of a cable more than 3° from a straight line.

Pressure seals are installed where cables (or rods) move through pressure bulkheads. The seal grips tightly enough to prevent excess air pressure loss but not enough to hinder movement of the cable. Pressure seals should be inspected at regular intervals to determine that the retaining rings are in place. If a retaining ring comes off, it may slide along the cable and cause jamming of a pulley. [Figure 2-74]

Figure 2-74. Cable guides.

Figure 2-74. Cable guides. [click image to enlarge]

Travel Adjustment

Control surfaces should move a certain distance in either direction from the neutral position. These movements must be synchronized with the movement of the flight deck controls. The flight control system must be adjusted (rigged) to obtain these requirements. The tools for measuring surface travel primarily include protractors, rigging fixtures, contour templates, and rulers. These tools are used when rigging flight control systems to assure that the desired travel has been obtained. Generally speaking, the rigging consists of the following:

  1. Positioning the flight control system in neutral and temporarily locking it there with rig pins or blocks;
  2. Adjusting system cable tension and maintaining rudder, elevator, and ailerons in the neutral position; and
  3. Adjusting the control stops to the aircraft manufacturer’s specifications.

Cable Tension

For the aircraft to operate as it was designed, the cable tension for the flight controls must be correct. To determine the amount of tension on a cable, a tensiometer is used. When properly maintained, a tensiometer is 98 percent accurate. Cable tension is determined by measuring the amount of force needed to make an offset in the cable between two hardened steel blocks called anvils. A riser or plunger is pressed against the cable to form the offset. Several manufacturers make a variety of tensiometers, each type designed for different kinds of cable, cable sizes, and cable tensions. [Figure 2-75]

Figure 2-75. Tensiometer.

Figure 2-75. Tensiometer.

Rigging Fixtures

Rigging fixtures and templates are special tools (gauges) designed by the manufacturer to measure control surface travel. Markings on the fixture or template indicate desired control surface travel.

Tension Regulators

Cable tension regulators are used in some flight control systems because there is considerable difference in temperature expansion of the aluminum aircraft structure and the steel control cables. Some large aircraft incorporate tension regulators in the control cable systems to maintain a given cable tension automatically. The unit consists of a compression spring and a locking mechanism that allows the spring to make correction in the system only when the cable system is in neutral.


A turnbuckle assembly is a mechanical screw device consisting of two threaded terminals and a threaded barrel. [Figure 2-76] Turnbuckles are fitted in the cable assembly for the purpose of making minor adjustments in cable length and for adjusting cable tension. One of the terminals has right-hand threads, and the other has left-hand threads. The barrel has matching right- and left-hand internal threads. The end of the barrel with the left-hand threads can usually be identified by a groove or knurl around that end of the barrel. When installing a turnbuckle in a control system, it is necessary to screw both of the terminals an equal number of turns into the barrel. It is also essential that all turnbuckle terminals be screwed into the barrel until not more than three threads are exposed on either side of the turnbuckle barrel. After a turnbuckle is properly adjusted, it must be safetied. There are a number of methods to safety a turnbuckle and/ or other types of swaged cable ends that are satisfactory. A double-wrap safety wire method is preferred.

Figure 2-76. Typical turnbuckle assembly.

Figure 2-76. Typical turnbuckle assembly. [click image to enlarge]

Some turnbuckles are manufactured and designed to accommodate special locking devices. A typical unit is shown in Figure 2-77.

Figure 2-77. Clip-type locking device and assembling in turnbuckle.

Figure 2-77. Clip-type locking device and assembling in turnbuckle. [click image to enlarge]

Cable Connectors

In addition to turnbuckles, cable connectors are used in some systems. These connectors enable a cable length to be quickly connected or disconnected from a system. Figure 2-78 illustrates one type of cable connector in use.

Figure 2-78. Spring-type connector.

Figure 2-78. Spring-type connector.


With a control cable properly rigged, the flight control should hit its stops at both extremes prior to the flight deck control. The spring-back is the small extra push that is needed for the flight deck control to hit its mechanical stop.

Push Rods (Control Rods)

Push rods are used as links in the flight control system to give push-pull motion. They may be adjusted at one or both ends. Figure 2-79 shows the parts of a push rod. Notice that it consists of a tube with threaded rod ends. An adjustable antifriction rod end, or rod end clevis, attaches at each end of the tube. The rod end, or clevis, permits attachment of the tube to flight control system parts. The checknut, when tightened, prevents the rod end or clevis from loosening. They may have adjustments at one or both ends.

Figure 2-79. Push rod.

Figure 2-79. Push rod. [click image to enlarge]

The rods should be perfectly straight, unless designed to be otherwise. When installed as part of a control system, the assembly should be checked for correct alignment and free movement.

It is possible for control rods fitted with bearings to become disconnected because of failure of the peening that retains the ball races in the rod end. This can be avoided by installing the control rods so that the flange of the rod end is interposed between the ball race and the anchored end of the attaching pin or bolt as shown in Figure 2-80.

Figure 2-80. Attached rod end.

Figure 2-80. Attached rod end.

Another alternative is to place a washer, having a larger diameter than the hole in the flange, under the retaining nut on the end of the attaching pin or bolt. This retains the rod on the bolt in the event of a bearing failure.

Torque Tubes

Where an angular or twisting motion is needed in a control system, a torque tube is installed. Figure 2-81 shows how a torque tube is used to transmit motion in opposite directions. [Figure 2-81]

Figure 2-81. Torque tube.

Figure 2-81. Torque tube.

Cable Drums

Cable drums are used primarily in trim tab systems. As the trim tab control wheel is moved clockwise or counterclockwise, the cable drum winds or unwinds to actuate the trim tab cables. [Figure 2-82]

Figure 2-82. Trim tab cable drum.

Figure 2-82. Trim tab cable drum. [click image to enlarge]