AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 0056B ACCREDITED

A Beginners Guide to Aircraft Control Cables

Aircraft control systems are an important aspect of modern aviation engineering, allowing pilots to navigate and maneuver through the skies with precision and grace. At the heart of these systems are control cables, indispensable parts that transmit the pilot's commands to the various control surfaces of the aircraft. In this beginner's guide, we will explore the world of control cables, their vital role in aviation, and the importance of control cable inspection.

Understanding Control Cables

Control cables are the lifelines of an aircraft's control system, coming in the form of thin, flexible wires or ropes made from high-strength materials such as stainless steel or synthetic fibers. These cables connect the pilot's control inputs, such as the yoke or joystick, to control surfaces, including the ailerons, elevators, and rudder. When a pilot moves the control input, the corresponding control cable transfers that motion to the appropriate control surface, dictating the aircraft's movements.

Types of Control Cables

There are two primary types of control cables used in aircraft: push-pull and tension cables. Push-pull cables are used for systems where both push and pull actions are needed, such as throttle and propeller controls. Tension cables, on the other hand, are used for control surfaces like ailerons and elevators, which only require a pulling action.

Importance of Control Cable Inspection

Proper control cable inspection is crucial to aviation safety, as these cables are subjected to tremendous stresses during flight, and their failure can have catastrophic consequences. Regular inspection and maintenance ensure that they remain in optimal condition, preventing accidents and mishaps. Generally, one should always follow manufacturer guidance or local mandates to maintain a set schedule of inspections.

Visual Inspection

One of the first steps in a control cable inspection is a thorough visual examination. At this time, inspectors look for signs of wear, fraying, or corrosion along the cables' length. These visual cues can reveal early signs of cable degradation, allowing timely replacement and preventing in-flight emergencies.

Tension Measurement

Control cable tension is critical for proper control surface movement. Too much tension can make the controls stiff and unresponsive, while too little can lead to sluggish responses. Tension measurement tools, such as tension meters, are used to ensure that cables are within the manufacturer's specified limits.

Cable Lubrication

Lubrication is a key aspect of control cable maintenance, and proper lubrication ensures that the cables move smoothly, reducing friction and wear. It also protects against corrosion, which is particularly critical for aircraft that operate in harsh environments. The type and frequency of lubrication depend on the manufacturer's recommendations and the specific aircraft's usage.

Cable Replacement

Over time, control cables may reach the end of their service life or become damaged beyond repair. When this happens, it is essential to replace them promptly. Failure to do so can compromise the aircraft's safety and performance. Replacement cables must meet the exact specifications and standards set by the aircraft's manufacturer to function properly.

Safety Precautions

When working with control cables, safety is paramount. All maintenance and inspection activities should be performed by qualified personnel who are trained in the specifics of aircraft control systems. Additionally, it is crucial to follow safety protocols and wear appropriate protective gear to prevent accidents.


Control cables play a vital role in ensuring an aircraft's performance, and their proper maintenance and inspection are essential for the safety of both passengers and crew members. Thorough visual inspection, tension measurement, and timely cable replacement are critical steps to ensure the integrity of these cables. Moreover, lubrication also plays a significant role in maintaining the smooth operation of control cables.

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