What is the Difference Between a Stabilator and an Elevator?

The stabilator and elevator are two very effective pieces of aerodynamic machinery. They are both found at the rear of an aircraft and both serve a similar purpose. Despite this, there are distinct differences between these two components of the empennage.  An aircraft elevator is an example of a flight control surface, or an aerodynamic device which allows an operator to control the aircraft's altitude. It, along with the horizontal stabilizer, maintains the pitch, lift, and angle of attack of an aircraft. The aircraft stabilator, colloquially referred to as an all-moving or all-flying tail, is a one-hundred percent adjustable aircraft stabilizer. Essentially, the stabilator is a 2-in-1 device that performs the duties of both the horizontal stabilizer and elevator. Hence the name, stabilator.

Engineers from The New Piper Aircraft Co. have stated that, because the stabilator has a tidier design and provides a larger surface for pitch control, it is more effective in allowing for smoother ascension and descension than the classic stabilizer/elevator combination. Another feature of a stabilator, called the antiservo, is an additional flap at the rear of the stabilator. The antiservo’s job is to make the aircraft stabilator less sensitive and help it stay in the optimal position. The trim tab, another feature of an aircraft’s tail section, moves parallel to the stabilator at a greater pace. The result is that the effort required to move the yoke, or steering wheel, heightens relative to airspeed and control deflection. This is a safety measure that increases control along the longitudinal axis and stops the pilot from over controlling.

Stabilators were partially developed as military parts and are now found on virtually all combat aircraft. This is due to the weight balance stabilators ability to continue controlling pitch through a variety of flight speeds, including supersonic flight. Non-delta winged supersonic aircraft use stabilators because conventional elevators can allow shock waves to form. Shock waves strongly diminish the effectiveness of elevators, thereby causing a dangerous aerodynamic phenomenon called mach tuck. Mach tuck will cause the nose of an aircraft to pitch downward when air flows past the wings at supersonic speeds.

Although there is a significant difference in the design and construction of a stabilator versus an elevator, they both essentially perform the same task of maintaining control of the planes nose. Regardless of whether a pilot is operating an aircraft with a stabilator or an elevator, they likely won’t feel a great difference in control.



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