When you think about the technology of an aircraft, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the complexity of the countless moving parts that make it take flight. However, while there are many subcomponents, there are really only five major parts to an aircraft: the fuselage, wings, empennage, powerplant, and landing gear.
The fuselage is the main piece of the aircraft, and probably the component that the average traveler is most familiar with. It holds the cabin and cockpit where you’ll find the passengers, crew, luggage, and other cargo. The wings and tail are attached to the fuselage during construction of the aircraft.
The wings connect to the fuselage and are the primary supports that lift the airplane in flight. Wings can vary greatly depending on the aircraft and manufacturer, but each style is tailored to optimize performance for the given aircraft. Wings attach to either the top, middle, or lower part of the fuselage and designs are referred to as either high-wing, mid-wing, or low-wing depending on where they connect. The amount of wings an airplane has can also vary. An aircraft with a single set of wings is called a monoplane, while one with two sets of wings is a biplane.
Another key component of an aircraft is the empennage. The empennage encompasses multiple smaller components and while the name might seem foreign to most, it is essentially the tail section of the aircraft. A few of the subparts found in the empennage are the rudder, elevator, and the vertical and horizontal stabilizers. The rudder is attached to the vertical stabilizer and, despite being at the very back of the aircraft, is used to move the nose of the plane left or right. The elevator (no, not that kind of elevator) is attached to the horizontal stabilizer and controls the nose’s upward and downward movement.
Beyond being paramount during landing, the aircraft landing gear is also the primary support piece of the airplane while grounded. Landing gear usually includes wheels, but could also consist of floats or even skis. The most common type of landing gear, consisting of two main wheels and a third wheel in the rear, is referred to as conventional landing gear. Aircrafts with this type of landing gear are called tailwheel airplanes, while aircrafts with an extra wheel at the front are called the nosewheel.
The final component of an aircraft is the powerplant. The powerplant is the driving force of an aircraft and typically includes the engine and propeller. The engine provides the propeller with power which then converts the energy from the engine into thrust, a force that pushes the plane forward in flight.
There are many smaller parts of an aircraft but these are the essential components. Each piece must work harmoniously with the others to safely transport travelers from point A to point B.
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