This page shows the parts of an airplane and their functions.
Airplanes are transportation devices which are designed to
people and cargo from one place to another.
Airplanes come in many
shapes and sizes depending on the
mission of the aircraft. The airplane shown on
this slide is a turbine-powered airliner which has been chosen as
a representative aircraft.
For any airplane to fly, one must lift the weight
of the airplane itself, the fuel, the passengers, and the cargo. The
wings generate most of the lift
to hold the plane in the air. To generate lift, the airplane must be
pushed through the air. The air resists the motion in
the form of aerodynamic
drag. Modern airliners use
winglets on the tips of the wings to reduce drag.
The turbine engines,
which are located beneath the wings, provide the thrust
to overcome drag and push the airplane forward through the air.
Smaller, low-speed airplanes use
propellers for the propulsion
system instead of turbine engines.
and maneuver the aircraft, smaller wings are located at
the tail of the plane. The tail usually has a fixed horizontal piece,
called the horizontal stabilizer, and a fixed vertical piece, called
the vertical stabilizer. The stabilizers' job is to provide
stability for the aircraft, to keep it flying straight. The
vertical stabilizer keeps the nose of the plane from swinging
from side to side, which is called
The horizontal stabilizer prevents an
up-and-down motion of the nose, which is called
(On the Wright brother's first aircraft, the horizontal
was placed in front of the wings. Such a configuration is called a
canard after the French word for "duck").
At the rear of the wings and stabilizers are small moving sections
that are attached to the fixed sections by hinges. In the figure,
these moving sections are colored brown. Changing
the rear portion of a wing will change the amount of force that
the wing produces. The ability to change forces gives us a means of
controlling and maneuvering the airplane. The hinged part of the
vertical stabilizer is called the rudder; it
is used to deflect the tail to the left and right as viewed from the
front of the fuselage. The hinged part of the horizontal stabilizer
is called the elevator; it is used to deflect
the tail up and down. The outboard hinged part of the wing is called
the aileron; it is used to
the wings from
side to side. Most airliners can also be rolled from side to side by
using the spoilers. Spoilers are small plates
that are used to disrupt the flow over the wing and to change the amount
of force by decreasing the lift when the spoiler is deployed.
The wings have additional hinged, rear sections near the body that
are called flaps. Flaps are deployed
downward on takeoff
and landing to increase the amount of force produced by the wing. On
some aircraft, the front part of the wing will also
deflect. Slats are used at takeoff and landing to produce additional
force. The spoilers are also used during
landing to slow the plane down and to counteract the flaps when the
aircraft is on the ground. The next time you fly on an airplane,
notice how the wing shape changes during takeoff and landing.
or body of the airplane, holds all the pieces
together. The pilots sit in the cockpit at the front of the
fuselage. Passengers and cargo are carried in the rear of the
fuselage. Some aircraft carry fuel in the fuselage; others carry the
fuel in the wings.
As mentioned above, the aircraft configuration in the figure was chosen only as an example.
Individual aircraft may be configured quite differently from this airliner.
The Wright Brothers
had pusher propellers and the elevators at the front of the aircraft.
Fighter aircraft often have the jet engines buried inside the fuselage
instead of in pods hung beneath the wings. Many fighter aircraft also
combine the horizontal stabilizer and elevator into a single
There are many possible aircraft configurations, but any
configuration must provide for the
needed for flight.
Parts of an Airplane:
- Beginner's Guide Home Page