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While insects like Drosophila are flying, aerodynamic instabilities require that they make millisecond-timescale adjustments to their wing motion to stay aloft and on course. These stabilization reflexes can be modeled as a proportional-integral (PI) controller; however, it is unclear how such control might be instantiated in insects at the level of muscles and neurons. Here, we show that the b1 and b2 motor units—prominent components of the fly’s steering muscles system—modulate specific elements of the PI controller: the angular displacement (integral, I) and angular velocity (proportional, P), respectively. Moreover, these effects are observed only during the stabilization of pitch. Our results provide evidence for an organizational principle in which each muscle contributes to a specific functional role in flight control, a finding that highlights the power of using top-down behavioral modeling to guide bottom-up cellular manipulation studies.