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What is CWS in Aviation? (Control Wheel Steering)

Updated: February 27, 2024

Control Wheel Steering (CWS): A Guide to Aircraft Control

When it comes to flying an aircraft, control is of utmost importance. Pilots rely on a variety of tools and techniques to ensure the safe and efficient operation of their aircraft. One such tool is Control Wheel Steering (CWS), a system that allows pilots to manipulate the aircraft's flight controls using the control wheel. In this article, we will explore the concept of Control Wheel Steering, its benefits, and its applications in modern aviation.

The Basics of Control Wheel Steering

Control Wheel Steering (CWS) is a feature commonly found in modern aircraft, particularly those equipped with fly-by-wire systems. It allows pilots to control the aircraft's flight path using the control wheel instead of directly manipulating the control surfaces. This is achieved through a combination of electronic sensors, actuators, and flight control computers.

When the pilot moves the control wheel, sensors detect the input and send signals to the flight control computers. These computers then interpret the pilot's input and command the necessary control surface movements to achieve the desired flight path. The control wheel essentially becomes a means of issuing commands to the aircraft's flight control system.

One of the primary advantages of Control Wheel Steering is its intuitive nature. Pilots are already accustomed to using the control wheel to maneuver the aircraft, so incorporating steering functionality into the control wheel reduces the need for additional controls or switches. This streamlines the pilot's workflow and allows for more precise and efficient control of the aircraft.

Applications of Control Wheel Steering

Control Wheel Steering finds applications in various aspects of aviation, ranging from commercial airliners to general aviation aircraft. Let's explore some of these applications:

1. Commercial Aviation

In commercial aviation, Control Wheel Steering is commonly used during manual flight operations. When the autopilot is disengaged, pilots can utilize CWS to control the aircraft's flight path. This allows for smoother and more intuitive maneuvering, especially during critical phases of flight such as takeoff and landing.

Additionally, Control Wheel Steering can be employed during visual approaches, where pilots rely on visual cues rather than instrument guidance. By using CWS, pilots can make fine adjustments to the aircraft's flight path to ensure accurate alignment with the runway.

Some modern airliners also incorporate a feature known as active sidestick, which combines Control Wheel Steering with force feedback. This system provides pilots with tactile feedback through the control stick, enhancing their situational awareness and control precision.

2. General Aviation

In the realm of general aviation, Control Wheel Steering offers pilots a convenient and user-friendly method of controlling their aircraft. From small single-engine airplanes to larger business jets, CWS allows pilots to maintain full control of the aircraft's flight path.

For example, when flying in turbulent conditions, pilots can use Control Wheel Steering to make quick and precise adjustments to counteract any unwanted deviations from the desired flight path. This helps enhance stability and passenger comfort.

Furthermore, Control Wheel Steering can be particularly beneficial during flight training. Student pilots can focus on developing their flying skills without the added complexity of manipulating multiple controls. This simplification allows for a smoother learning curve and faster progression.


Control Wheel Steering (CWS) is a valuable tool in aviation, offering pilots an intuitive and efficient method of controlling their aircraft. By utilizing the control wheel to manipulate the aircraft's flight controls, pilots can achieve precise and responsive maneuvering, resulting in safer and more enjoyable flights.

Whether it's in commercial aviation or general aviation, Control Wheel Steering finds applications in a wide range of aircraft. Its intuitive nature and user-friendly interface make it a popular choice among pilots, simplifying their workflow and enhancing their control over the aircraft's flight path.

So the next time you see a pilot confidently maneuvering their aircraft using the control wheel, remember that they are harnessing the power of Control Wheel Steering to navigate the skies with precision and finesse.

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