What Is The Purpose Of The Spoiler On An Airplane

What Is The Purpose Of The Spoiler On An Airplane: Unveiling Its Function and Importance


When we think of an airplane, we often envision its sleek, aerodynamic design soaring through the sky. One crucial component that contributes to the aircraft’s stability and control is the spoiler. While the spoiler’s purpose may not be immediately apparent to all, it plays a vital role in flight operations. In this article, we will explore the function and significance of spoilers on airplanes, along with interesting facts about this essential aircraft feature.

Understanding the Purpose of Spoilers:

1. Stability and Control: Spoilers are primarily used to enhance an aircraft’s stability and control during various flight phases, such as takeoff, landing, and maneuvering. They help in adjusting the aircraft’s lift, drag, and roll characteristics, ensuring a safe and controlled flight.

2. Lift Reduction: Spoilers are deployed symmetrically on both wings to disrupt and reduce lift. By interrupting the smooth airflow over the wings, spoilers reduce the upward force generated by the wings, enabling controlled descent and landing.

3. Speed Brakes: Spoilers also act as speed brakes, aiding in reducing the aircraft’s speed during descent and landing. By extending the spoilers upwards, they increase the drag, allowing the aircraft to decelerate efficiently.

4. Roll Control: During flight, spoilers on one wing can be deployed asymmetrically or differentially to assist in roll control. This helps in countering any rolling tendencies and maintaining the desired bank angle.

5. Crosswind Compensation: In the presence of crosswinds, spoilers can be employed differentially to compensate for the lateral drift caused by the wind. They assist in maintaining the aircraft’s heading and minimizing any sideways movement.

6. Ground Effect: When an aircraft is near the ground during landing, it experiences the ground effect, which can affect its aerodynamic performance. Spoilers aid in mitigating this effect by reducing lift and ensuring a smooth touchdown.

7. Flight Spoilers vs. Ground Spoilers: While flight spoilers are primarily used during flight for control purposes, ground spoilers are deployed upon landing to assist in rapid deceleration. These spoilers are extensively used by commercial aircraft to quickly slow down after touchdown.

Interesting Facts about Airplane Spoilers:

1. Spoiler Design: Spoilers are typically made of lightweight materials such as aluminum or composite materials to minimize their impact on the aircraft’s weight and fuel efficiency.

2. Hidden Spoilers: Some aircraft, like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, have hidden spoilers that retract entirely into the wings when not in use. This design enhances the aircraft’s aesthetics and reduces drag during cruise flight.

3. High-Speed Spoilers: Aircraft designed for high-speed flight, such as supersonic jets, often have retractable spoilers that can be deployed at higher speeds to assist in control and stability.

4. Automatic Spoiler Deployment: In many modern aircraft, spoilers are automatically deployed during specific flight phases, such as landing or rejected takeoff scenarios. This automated system ensures timely and precise spoiler operation.

5. Spoilers and Winglets: Spoilers and winglets serve different purposes. While spoilers reduce lift and create drag, winglets reduce the induced drag caused by wingtip vortices, enhancing fuel efficiency.

6. Spoilerons: Some aircraft employ spoilerons, which are a combination of spoilers and ailerons. These control surfaces assist in both roll control and reducing lift, providing increased maneuverability.

7. Variable Spoiler Deployment: Depending on the aircraft’s weight and center of gravity, the number of spoilers deployed may vary. This dynamic deployment helps maintain optimal control and stability throughout the flight.

Common Questions about Airplane Spoilers:

1. How do spoilers affect an airplane’s speed?

Spoilers increase drag, reducing the aircraft’s speed during descent and landing.

2. Can spoilers be used during takeoff?

Generally, spoilers are not used during takeoff. However, some aircraft might deploy them in case of an aborted takeoff or rejected landing.

3. Do all airplanes have spoilers?

Not all airplanes have spoilers. Smaller aircraft, such as general aviation planes, often do not require spoilers due to their different flight characteristics.

4. Can spoilers be used to turn an airplane?

Spoilers alone cannot turn an airplane. They primarily assist in roll control and reducing lift, but turning is predominantly achieved through ailerons and rudder.

5. Do spoilers affect fuel efficiency?

Spoilers increase drag, which may slightly affect fuel efficiency. However, their benefits in enhancing control and safety outweigh this minor impact.

6. Are spoilers used during turbulence?

Spoilers are not typically used during turbulence. Their deployment is primarily focused on specific flight phases such as descent, landing, and roll control.

7. Can pilots manually control spoiler deployment?

Pilots can manually control spoiler deployment through the aircraft’s control systems or by using dedicated switches in the cockpit.

8. Can spoilers be deployed asymmetrically?

Yes, spoilers can be deployed asymmetrically to assist in roll control and counteract any rolling tendencies.

9. Do spoilers generate noise during deployment?

Spoilers may produce a noticeable sound during deployment, especially at higher speeds. However, cabin insulation minimizes noise transmission to the passengers.

10. Are spoilers used during emergency landings?

Yes, spoilers are often deployed during emergency landings to rapidly decrease the aircraft’s speed and assist in deceleration.

11. Do spoilers have any impact on passenger comfort?

Spoilers have minimal impact on passenger comfort since their operation is primarily focused on ensuring a safe flight. Passengers may not even be aware of their deployment.

12. Can spoilers be used during mid-air refueling?

Spoilers are not used during mid-air refueling operations. Their purpose is primarily related to flight control and stability.

13. Do all spoilers on an aircraft deploy simultaneously?

Spoilers can be programmed to deploy simultaneously or differentially based on the desired flight maneuver or the aircraft’s control system.

14. How do spoilers affect the landing distance?

Spoilers assist in reducing lift and increasing drag, allowing the aircraft to land at a shorter distance by aiding in rapid deceleration after touchdown.


Spoilers play a crucial role in an aircraft’s stability, control, and safe operation. By reducing lift, increasing drag, and aiding in roll control, spoilers ensure controlled descent, landing, and maneuvering. As we look ahead to the year 2024, advancements in spoiler technology and automated control systems will continue to enhance aviation safety and efficiency.

Scroll to Top