Parts of an Airplane and their functions

Airplanes are certainly a remarkable feat of engineering. Man has figured out how to get over 100,000 pounds worth of metal up in the air and flying smoothly, but not without a little trial and error.

Also, over the past century, the components of an aircraft have evolved to make flights more efficient, safer, and faster.

The 5 main parts of an airplane include:

  1. Fuselage
  2. Wings
  3. Empennage
  4. Powerplant
  5. Landing Gear

Basically, understanding the functions of how these parts interact is the first step to understanding the principles of aerodynamics.

You may also like to know: “The significance of Blinking Lights”

FUSELAGE

Fuselage constitutes of passengers, cargo and flight crew. (Source: carbonfibre.com)
  • The fuselage is the main section, or body, of the airplane. (If “fuselage” sounds like a French word to you, you’re right. That’s because it is derived from the French word for “spindle-shaped” – fuselé.)
  • This is where you’ll find passengers, cargo, and the flight crew.
  • The fuselage is one of the major aircraft components with its long hollow tube that’s also known as the body of the airplane, which holds the passengers along with cargo.
  • This area includes the cockpit, so the pilots are in the front of the fuselage. Despite there being different types of fuselages, they all connect the major parts of an airplane together.
  • Also the fuselage is the foundation for the structure of the aircraft. Moreover, the tail number, which identifies each plane, is often located at the rear of the fuselage near the tail.

WINGS

  • Wings include ailerons and flaps. “Aileron” is another French word. Additionally, it means “little wing” or “fin.” They are used in pairs to control the airplane’s roll or bank.
  • The wings of an aircraft serve the same purpose as the wings of a bird, hence their name. Airplanes are considered fixed-wing aircraft. (Helicopters are considered rotary-winged.)
  • A plane is capable of flight because its wings provide lift. Lift is amongst the significant functions. Lift is created by the shape of the wings and the plane’s speed as it moves forward.
  • Not surprisingly, the wings, also commonly known as foils, are aircraft parts that are imperative for flight. Further, the airflow over the wings is what generates most of the lifting force necessary for flight.
  • Along with the large wings that stem from the middle of the fuselage, the wings also include two smaller ones at the back of most aircraft, at the tail.
  • Flaps reduce the stalling speed of a wing at a given weight.
  • The leading edge of the wings faces the front of the plane.
  • The trailing edge of the wing is the back edge. It includes the aileron and trim tab.
    • Some wings are fixed high on the plane above the fuselage and known as high wing aircraft.
    • Low wing aircraft are planes on which the wings are installed lower than halfway up the fuselage.
    • Mid wing aircraft are planes on which wings are installed in the mid of fuselage.
  • The tilt of the wings is a crucial part of the overall structure of the airplane as they allow the pilot to decrease or increase the descent rate of the plane when flying. It’s a big deal when a wing suffers damage, and it’s one of the reasons planes are generally kept in hangars when out of use.
The wing of an airplane has several features like flaps, aileron and fin. (Image courtesy stockadobe)

EMPENNAGE

  • The empennage, also called the tail or tail assembly, is located at the rear of an airplane. The tail provides stability during flight.
    • The rudder helps the aircraft steer from right to left.
    • the elevator helps with the up and down movement.
  • Also, this is very similar to how feathers on an arrow provide stability.
  • Further the tail assembly consists of the
    • vertical stabilizer
    • rudder
    • elevator
    • horizontal stabilizer
    • and static wicks
It constitutes of elevator and rudder i.e. primary control surfaces. (Image courtesy stockadobe)

POWERPLANT

The engine produces THRUST or POWER, (source adobestock )
  • The power plant of an airplane structure includes the engine and also the propeller. However, the engine itself is a complicated system comprised of many smaller parts like cylinders, fans, and pistons.
  • Together, these aircraft engine parts work to generate the power or thrust of an aircraft.
  • Generally speaking, there are two types of aircraft engines:
    • Reciprocating engine
    • Turbine engine
  • With reciprocating engines,
    • Air flows into the engine, is compressed and mixed with fuel. And an electric spark to combust, with exhaust gases leaving the back of the engine through the manifold. The engine spins the propeller which then creates thrust to move the plane forward.
  • With a turbine engine,
    • the action of compressing air, mixing with fuel, ignition and exhaust are similar but occur inline. In this case the power is generated by the air being exhausted from the engine.

LANDING GEAR

  1. The landing gear is the undercarriage of an airplane. The landing gear supports the plane when it is on the ground.
  2. Landing gear also allows the plane to take off, land, and taxi without damage. Most landing gear have wheels. However, some aircraft use skis or floats to operate on snow, ice, or water.
  3. Faster aircraft, such as many twin-engine or jet aircraft, have retractable landing gear.
  4. Moreover, you cannot have a safe plane without having the landing gear.
  5. The landing gear includes shock absorbers for a smooth landing and takeoff as well as the wheels on the plane.
THE LANDING GEAR IS FOR THE PURPOSE OF LAND, TAKE OFF AND TAXI.

Parts and their functions in brief:

Let’s quickly summarise the functions of various parts of an airplane in a crisp manner:

  • Aileron: To roll left & right.
    • The ailerons are the hinged surfaces of wings that aids in controlling lateral balance.
    • This means when the right aileron goes up, the left one goes down. When the right goes down, the left aileron goes up.
  • Anti-Collision Warning Beacon: 
    • A red light to warn other aircraft and help prevent mid-air collisions.
  • A.P.U. Exhaust:
    • This is the exhaust pipe for the A.P.U. (Auxiliary Power Unit). The A.P.U. is an engine in the tail of the aircraft.
  • Cockpit Flight Deck:
    •  In this room, pilots aviate, communicate, and navigate.
  • Elevator:
    • The elevators work to control the pitch motion of the craft.
    • These are hinged surfaces that are fitted to the rear of the horizontal stabilizers. These work as a symmetrical pair.
    • When the elevators go up, the aircraft goes up. When the elevators go down, the aircraft goes down.
  • Engine Cowling: The main cover or housing of the engine.
  • Engine Mounting: Used to fix the engine to the wing.
  • Flap:
    • It is one of the parts to increase lift during take-off and landing. Pilots extend the flaps to increase the wing’s area.
    • This increases the lift. Located at the back of the wing, the flaps are included to help increase the lift of the plane into the air. These flaps are fitted to trail the edge of the wing sections.
    • These flaps extend out from the wing and increase the camber of the wings airfoil so that it can lift at low speeds, which is vital to landing successfully.
  • Slats:
    • Slats are identified as the front most portion of the wing.
    • They are adjustable so the pilot can alter the slat to the desired level during lift off of the entire plane.
  • Fuselage:
    • The body or structure of the aircraft.
    • This is the centermost piece of the aircraft that is responsible for the structural integrity of the cargo and passengers.
    • Most of the modern day aircraft can hold up to 800 passengers and about 250,000 pounds in the cargo.
  • Nose Gear:
    • The front wheels of the aircraft. Aircraft also have MAIN GEAR (wheels under the aircraft’s wings) and sometimes BODY GEAR (wheels under the aircraft’s body).
  • Propeller: Gives an aircraft thrust or power.
  • Pylons:
    • Used to stabilise the air flow behind the wing. Without pylons, the air is unstable.
    • This makes drag, and reduces the aircraft’s speed and performance.
  • Radome: The aircraft’s radar is inside the radome or nose of the aircraft.
  • Speed Brakes / Air Brakes:
    •  Used to slow the plane in the air and while landing.
  • Spoilers:
    • Used to destroy lift and keep the plane on the ground. This is important while landing. Without spoilers, the plane bounces on the runway.
    • This can damage the landing gear. However, some pilots prefer hard landings to help prevent bounce.
  • Vortex Generator: 
    • Used to create lift in areas of the wing that have no or very little lift, for example, next to the engine mounting.
  • Winglet:
    •  Used to reduce the vortex at the end of the wing. A vortex is unstable circular air. Furthermore, it makes drag, and reduces the aircraft’s speed and performance.
  • Wing Tip: 
    • The end or tip of the wing.
  • Horizontal Stabiliser:
    • Stabilises the aircraft around the lateral axis.
    • At the tail of the plane, there is a horizontal wing-like structure that protrudes out.
  • Vertical Stabiliser:
    • On the tail section of the plane, you’ll notice a shark-like fin. This is referred to as the vertical stabilizer.
    • Also this helps to prevent lateral movements of the craft which could easily lead to slippage, making the plane uncontrollable to handle.
  • Rudder:
    •  To yaw left & right a little. The rudder is responsible for controlling the yaw motion of the aircraft.
    • This is the side to side movement of the nose of the craft.
    • You’ll find the rudder as a hinged section at the rear of the vertical stabilizer of the plane.
  • Landing Gear:
    • Pilots extend or retract the landing gear (wheels) during take-off and landing.

All parts of an airplane are crucial for conducting safe flight. A huge responsibility pilots take on is making sure all aircraft components are in excellent condition before embarking on their flight journey.

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