What is CWS on Boeing 737? (Control Wheel Steering)

Control Wheel Steering, commonly known as CWS, is a feature found in the Boeing 737 aircraft that provides pilots with an alternative method of controlling the aircraft’s flight path. It allows pilots to steer the aircraft using the control wheel instead of the traditional method of using the rudder pedals. This innovative system enhances maneuverability and control, especially during critical phases of flight such as takeoff and landing.

In this article, we will explore the functionality and benefits of Control Wheel Steering on the Boeing 737 aircraft, as well as its impact on pilot training and overall flight safety.

How does Control Wheel Steering work?

The Control Wheel Steering system on the Boeing 737 utilizes the aircraft’s fly-by-wire technology to translate input from the control wheel into the necessary control surface deflections. When the pilot moves the control wheel to the left or right, the system sends electronic signals to the flight control computers, which then command the appropriate control surfaces, such as ailerons and elevators, to initiate the desired motion.

Unlike traditional mechanical systems, Control Wheel Steering offers variable steering sensitivity, which means the magnitude of the control surface deflection depends on the amount of force applied to the control wheel. This feature allows pilots to achieve precise control and fine adjustments as needed, creating a more intuitive flying experience.

Furthermore, the Control Wheel Steering system incorporates various modes that provide pilots with additional control options depending on the specific flight conditions. One such mode is the “Scaled Small Motions” mode, which enables pilots to make small control inputs without activating the autopilot. This mode is particularly useful during turbulent conditions or when performing visual maneuvers.

The benefits of Control Wheel Steering

Control Wheel Steering offers several advantages that enhance the flying experience for pilots and improve overall flight safety. Let’s take a closer look at some of these benefits:

1. Improved maneuverability and control

By allowing pilots to control the aircraft’s flight path using the control wheel, Control Wheel Steering enhances maneuverability, especially during critical flight phases. It provides a direct and responsive control interface, allowing pilots to make precise adjustments to the aircraft’s attitude and direction.

Additionally, the variable steering sensitivity feature allows for fine adjustments, ensuring smooth and accurate flying. This level of control is crucial for executing maneuvers such as steep turns, aerial displays, and maintaining proper alignment during crosswind landings.

2. Reduced workload

Control Wheel Steering on the Boeing 737 helps reduce pilot workload, especially during busy flight phases. Instead of having to coordinate the use of both control wheel and rudder pedals, pilots can focus solely on the control wheel, simplifying the control inputs required.

During takeoff and landing, when precise control inputs are necessary, CWS allows pilots to maintain a stable flight path by smoothly adjusting the control wheel. This alleviates the need for constant pedal inputs, freeing up the pilots’ cognitive resources to monitor other critical aspects of flight.

3. Enhanced flight safety

The Control Wheel Steering system contributes to enhanced flight safety through its intuitive control interface and stability-enhancing features. By providing pilots with a direct and responsive control mechanism, CWS reduces the chances of inadvertent control inputs or over-corrections.

Furthermore, the system’s ability to scale small motions allows for precise control inputs, even in turbulent conditions. This enables pilots to maintain a stable flight path, reducing the risk of encountering dangerous situations such as stalls or loss of control.

It is important to note that Control Wheel Steering is just one component of the overall flight control system on the Boeing 737, which includes other features such as the autopilot and yaw dampers. These systems work together to ensure optimal control and stability throughout various flight phases.


Control Wheel Steering on the Boeing 737 aircraft offers pilots an alternative and intuitive method of controlling the aircraft’s flight path. By using the control wheel instead of the traditional rudder pedals, pilots can achieve improved maneuverability, reduced workload, and enhanced flight safety.

The variable steering sensitivity and various control modes of the CWS system provide pilots with precise control options, ensuring smooth and accurate flying. Additionally, the system contributes to overall flight safety by minimizing the risk of inadvertent control inputs and enhancing stability.

As aviation technology continues to evolve, Control Wheel Steering remains an essential feature that significantly enhances the flying experience for pilots and improves overall flight safety on the Boeing 737 aircraft.

For More: What is SRM on Boeing 737? (Stabilizer Trim/Rudder Ratio Module)