Motion 101: Roll, Pitch, Yaw, Sway, Surge, Heave and Traction Loss explained

Updated: May 23

This post is intended to explain in more details what the heck are those very complicated terms for non-engineering people like me. :-)


PITCH: The angle of the vehicle up or down. Imagine when you go up a hill or down a hill. Affects both cars and planes in similar ways.

ROLL: The angle of the vehicle side to side vs the horizon. Imagine when you are in a banked curve. Mostly affect planes as car move very little horizontally. Unless you are in a Nascar banked curve. Some people confuses roll with Sway (Lateral Gravitational Forces)

SWAY: The lateral G force affecting the vehicle. Imagine when you are in a high speed curve and your car is been "pushed" to the outside of the curve. One of the most important effects for cars, not as important for planes.


SURGE: The longitudinal G force affecting the vehicle. Imagine when you are accelerating or breaking. That's the effect that makes you feel gear changes on cars.


HEAVE: The vertical G forces affecting the vehicle. Imagine for a car, the road texture and bumps. For planes, turbulence, when you hit the ground and etc...Affects both cars and planes in similar ways.


TRACTION LOSS: You feel that force when the back part of your car is rotating quicker than the front part. Like for example, when you are drifting or losing control of the back. Only for cars. Does not work for planes.


YAW: Same as Traction loss, but for planes. Like when you press the rudders and the plane twist without rolling or pitching. Only for planes. Do not work with cars.




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