What Is a Yaw Damper

The Dutch roll is an undesired phenomenon faced by propeller and jet engine aircraft alike, often causing an out-of-phase combination of yaw and roll movements that cause the tail structure to wag while rocking side to side. The Dutch roll motion typically results from a weaker positive directional stability as compared to the positive lateral stability, meaning that the restoring yaw motion will lag behind the restoring roll motion. This causes a slidelip to be generated in the opposite direction, reversing the process. As a phenomenon that all pilots want to avoid for efficient and smooth flight, aircraft of all types have introduced what is known as a yaw damper to their assembly.

Consisting of a number of accelerometer components and sensors that are capable of monitoring the rate of yaw of an aircraft, the yaw damper serves to mitigate the movement of an aircraft around its vertical axis. As such, the yaw damper is somewhat comparable to the automated management of rudder pedals. For their functionality, the yaw damper utilizes its accelerometer components and rate sensors to detect the movement of an aircraft, converting such readings into inputs that are supplied to the rudder. As an example, the yaw damper of a single-engine aircraft will take readings to create inputs that smooth the side-to-side movements of the vertical stabilizer. This enables a more comfortable flight for the benefit of passengers as well as increases flight efficiency.

Yaw dampers also benefit other diverse aircraft types such as those that feature a T-tail configuration. Such aircraft are often faced with the detrimental Dutch roll effect, and also suffer from yawing and rolling motions of the wings. As these effects can result in oscillations, it is important that proper protection is implemented. More conventional, straight-wing aircraft also commonly implement yaw dampers, and such systems may be controllable by the pilot so that it engages only when needed. In other instances, the yaw damper may be automatically controlled, engaging or disengaging on set elevations during a landing or takeoff sequence.

While a yaw damper can be highly beneficial for aircraft operations, it is important that pilots are well aware of the capabilities of the system present on a particular aircraft, or whether or not there is one implemented. For larger aircraft, the activation of a yaw damper during a takeoff phase may mask the failure of a powerplant, thus causing a major risk for a flight operation. Additionally, swept-wing aircraft may face strong crosswinds during a landing procedure, and the yaw damper may limit the amount of control given to the pilot. Coupled with the fact that such systems vary in their ability to be manually controlled or automatically managed, pilots must be cognisant of present systems and how they will affect the type of aircraft that they are currently operating. Nevertheless, most aircraft that are driven by jet engines, propeller assemblies, and other configurations may all benefit from the use of a yaw damper.

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April 30, 2021