The main control surfaces of a fixed-wing aircraft are attached to the airframe on hinges or tracks so they may move and thus deflect the air stream passing over them. This redirection of the air stream generates an unbalanced force to rotate the plane about the associated axis.
The main control surfaces are: ailerons, elevator, and rudder.
Ailerons are mounted on the trailing edge of each wing near the wingtips and move in opposite directions. When the pilot moves the stick left, the left aileron goes up and the right aileron goes down. A raised aileron reduces lift on that wing and a lowered one increases lift, so moving the stick left causes the left wing to drop and the right wing to rise. This causes the aircraft to roll to the left and begin to turn to the left. Centering the stick returns the ailerons to neutral maintaining the bank angle. The aircraft will continue to turn until opposite aileron motion returns the bank angle to zero to fly straight.
Figure 2.14: Actions on the control surfaces. © Ignacio Icke / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0.
An elevator is mounted on the trailing edge of the horizontal stabilizer on each side of the fin in the tail. They move up and down together. When the pilot pulls the stick backward, the elevators go up. Pushing the stick forward causes the elevators to go down. Raised elevators push down on the tail and cause the nose to pitch up. This makes the wings fly at a higher angle of attack, which generates more lift and more drag. Centering the stick returns the elevators to neutral position and stops the change of pitch.
The rudder is typically mounted on the trailing edge of the fin, part of the empennage. When the pilot pushes the left pedal, the rudder deflects left. Pushing the right pedal causes the rudder to deflect right. Deflecting the rudder right pushes the tail left and causes the nose to yaw to the right. Centering the rudder pedals returns the rudder to neutral position and stops the yaw.