Trim Controls - Aerodynamics, Aircraft Assembly, and Rigging | Aircraft Systems

Trim Controls - Aerodynamics, Aircraft Assembly, and Rigging

Included in the trim controls are the trim tabs, servo tabs, balance tabs, and spring tabs. Trim tabs are small airfoils recessed into the trailing edges of the primary control surfaces. [Figure 1] Trim tabs can be used to correct any tendency of the aircraft to move toward an undesirable flight attitude. Their purpose is to enable the pilot to trim out any unbalanced condition which may exist during flight, without exerting any pressure on the primary controls.

aircraft assembly
Figure 1. Trim tabs

Servo tabs, sometimes referred to as flight tabs, are used primarily on the large main control surfaces. They aid in moving the main control surface and holding it in the desired position. Only the servo tab moves in response to movement by the pilot of the primary flight controls.

Balance tabs are designed to move in the opposite direction of the primary flight control. Thus, aerodynamic forces acting on the tab assist in moving the primary control surface.


Spring tabs are similar in appearance to trim tabs, but serve an entirely different purpose. Spring tabs are used for the same purpose as hydraulic actuators—to aid the pilot in moving the primary control surface.

Figure 2 indicates how each trim tab is hinged to its parent primary control surface, but is operated by an independent control.