The three primary flight controls are the ailerons, elevator and rudder.
Ailerons: The two ailerons, one at the outer trailing edge of each wing, are movable surfaces that control movement about the longitudinal axis. The movement is roll. Lowering the aileron on one wing raises the aileron on the other. The wing with the lowered aileron goes up because of its increased lift, and the wing with the raised aileron goes down because of its decreased lift. Thus, the effect of moving either aileron is aided by the simultaneous and opposite movement of the aileron on the other wing.
Rods or cables connect the ailerons to each other and to the control wheel (or stick) in the cockpit. When pressure is applied to the right on the control wheel, the left aileron goes down and the right aileron goes up, rolling the airplane to the right. This happens because the down movement of the left aileron increases the wing camber (curvature) and thus increases the angle of attack. The right aileron moves upward and decreases the camber, resulting in a decreased angle of attack. Thus, decreased lift on the right wing and increased lift on the left wing cause a roll and bank to the right.
Elevators: The elevators control the movement of the airplane about its lateral axis. This motion is pitch. The elevators form the rear part of the horizontal tail assembly and are free to swing up and down. They are hinged to a fixed surface--the horizontal stabilizer. Together, the horizontal stabilizer and the elevators form a single airfoil. A change in position of the elevators modifies the camber of the airfoil, which increases or decreases lift.
Like the ailerons, the elevators are connected to the control wheel (or stick) by control cables. When forward pressure is applied on the wheel, the elevators move downward. This increases the lift produced by the horizontal tail surfaces. The increased lift forces the tail upward, causing the nose to drop. Conversely, when back pressure is applied on the wheel, the elevators move upward, decreasing the lift produced by the horizontal tail surfaces, or maybe even producing a downward force. The tail is forced downward and the nose up.
The elevators control the angle of attack of the wings. When back pressure is applied on the control wheel, the tail lowers and the nose raises, increasing the angle of attack. Conversely, when forward pressure is applied, the tail raises and the nose lowers, decreasing the angle of attack.
Rudder: The rudder controls movement of the airplane about its vertical axis. This motion is yaw. Like the other primary control surfaces, the rudder is a movable surface hinged to a fixed surface which, in this case, is the vertical stabilizer, or fin. Its action is very much like that of the elevators, except that it swings in a different plane--from side to side instead of up and down. Control cables connect the rudder to the rudder pedals.
Trim Tabs: A trim tab is a small, adjustable hinged surface on the trailing edge of the aileron, rudder, or elevator control surfaces. Trim tabs are labor saving devices that enable the pilot to release manual pressure on the primary controls.
Some airplanes have trim tabs on all three control surfaces that are adjustable from the cockpit; others have them only on the elevator and rudder; and some have them only on the elevator. Some trim tabs are the ground-adjustable type only.
The tab is moved in the direction opposite that of the primary control surface, to relieve pressure on the control wheel or rudder control. For example, consider the situation in which we wish to adjust the elevator trim for level flight. ("Level flight" is the attitude of the airplane that will maintain a constant altitude.) Assume that back pressure is required on the control wheel to maintain level flight and that we wish to adjust the elevator trim tab to relieve this pressure. Since we are holding back pressure, the elevator will be in the "up" position. The trim tab must then be adjusted downward so that the airflow striking the tab will hold the elevators in the desired position. Conversely, if forward pressure is being held, the elevators will be in the down position, so the tab must be moved upward to relieve this pressure. In this example, we are talking about the tab itself and not the cockpit control.
Rudder and aileron trim tabs operate on the same principle as the elevator trim tab to relieve pressure on the rudder pedals and sideward pressure on the control wheel, respectively.