Aircraft rigging involves the adjustment and travel of movable flight controls which are attached to aircraft major surfaces, such as wings and vertical and horizontal stabilizers. Ailerons are attached to the wings, elevators are attached to the horizontal stabilizer, and the rudder is attached to the vertical stabilizer. Rigging involves setting cable tension, adjusting travel limits of flight controls, and setting travel stops.

In addition to the flight controls, rigging is also performed on various components to include engine controls, flight deck controls, and retractable landing gear component parts. Rigging also includes the safetying of the attaching hardware using various types of cotter pins, locknuts, or safety wire.

Rigging Specifications
Type Certificate Data Sheet

The Type Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS) is a formal description of an aircraft, engine, or propeller. It is issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) when the FAA determines that the product meets the applicable requirements for certification under 14 CFR. It lists the limitations and information required for type certification, including airspeed limits, weight limits, control surface movements, engine make and model, minimum crew, fuel type, thrust limits, rpm limits, etc., and the various components eligible for installation on the product.

Maintenance Manual

A maintenance manual is developed by the manufacturer of the applicable product and provides the recommended and acceptable procedures to be followed when maintaining or repairing that product. Maintenance personnel are required by regulation to follow the applicable instructions set forth by the manufacturer. The Limitations section of the manual lists “life limits” of the product or its components that must be complied with during inspections and maintenance.

Structural Repair Manual (SRM)

The structural repair manual is developed by the manufacturer’s engineering department to be used as a guideline to assist in the repair of common damage to a specific aircraft structure. It provides information for acceptable repairs of specific sections of the aircraft.

Manufacturer’s Service Information

Information from the manufacturer may be in the form of information bulletins, service instructions, service bulletins, service letters, etc., that the manufacturer publishes to provide instructions for product improvement. Service instructions may include a recommended modification or repair that precedes the issuance of an Airworthiness Directive (AD). Service letters may provide more descriptive procedures or revise sections of the maintenance manuals. They may also include instructions for the installation and repair of optional equipment, not listed in the TCDS.

Airplane Assembly
Aileron Installation

The manufacturer’s maintenance and illustrated parts book must be followed to ensure the correct procedures and hardware are being used for installation of the control surfaces. All of the control surfaces require specific hardware, spacers, and bearings be installed to ensure the surface does not jam or become damaged during movement. After the aileron is connected to the flight deck controls, the control system must be inspected to ensure the cables/push-pull rods are routed properly. When a balance cable is installed, check for correct attachment and operation to determine the ailerons are moving in the proper direction and opposite each other.

Flap Installation

The design, installation, and systems that operate flaps are as varied as the models of airplanes on which they are installed. As with any system on a specific aircraft, the manufacturer’s maintenance manual and the illustrated parts book must be followed to ensure the correct procedures and parts are used. Simple flap systems are usually operated manually by cables and/or torque tubes. Typically, many of the smaller manufactured airplane designs have flaps that are actuated by torque tubes and chains through a gear box driven by an electric motor.

Empennage Installation

The empennage, consisting of the horizontal and vertical stabilizer, is not normally removed and installed, unless the aircraft was damaged. Elevators, rudders, and stabilators are rigged the same as any other control surface, using the instructions provided in the manufacturer’s maintenance manuals.