7 Essential Parts of an Airplane and Why Its Function Matters
Aircraft are some of the most sophisticated machines in the world. They combine various sciences, technologies, and engineering to make the flying beast we know and love. The function of each part plays a vital role in how a plane flies and its operations. Here we will take you through seven essential parts to help you better understand why they matter.
The fuselage is the plane’s main body. It acts as the only barrier between you and the elements. The fuselage is made from lightweight materials such as aluminum, alloys, carbon fiber, plastic, and more. Even though these materials may be light in weight, they are very strong and allow aircraft to survive the forces of flight. It is designed to be as aerodynamic as possible with smooth curves and angles to enable airflow around the plane’s body. The fuselage also houses the essential systems that enable a plane to fly. The fuel, electronics, control systems, and transmission are all housed within it.
The wings are the aircraft’s most critical aerodynamic surfaces. They are instrumental in lifting, preventing drag, and controlling flight. They provide lift by using the airflow around the plane. Air flows over the top of the wings and down underneath, causing a low-pressure zone above and a high-pressure zone below. Together this pressure difference is known as lift which allows an aircraft to stay airborne. The wings may also function as fuel tanks.
The empennage is the tail of the plane. It consists of a horizontal stabilizer, paired vertical stabilizers, and an elevator. The horizontal stabilizer controls the side-to-side movement of the aircraft while in flight. This is done by moving laterally outwards or inwards, depending on whether you want to turn left or right. Vertical stabilizers change the plane’s pitch. This controls how high or low an aircraft flies. Ailerons control flaps which help with pitch changes. The flight controls, elevators, rudders, and ailerons provide flight control, which is crucial to keeping an aircraft’s nose level.
The engine provides thrust for lift and propulsion for flight. The most common type of engine is a gas turbine. It uses fuel to create a high-temperature gas. The hot gases spin turbines within the engine that are connected mechanically to driveshafts. The driveshafts are attached to the propellers. Jet engines generate so much thrust that they can create upwards forces up to 13 tons per square meter, while turbofans can produce upwards forces as high as 1250 kg/m2.
Propellers are the blade-like structures outside the airplane’s engines that help propel it forward. They need to be large enough to provide thrust and small enough so they do not create more drag. This is done by creating a thin, efficient profile and shaping them as circularly shaped disks for maximum efficiency. The design of propellers also creates a slight vacuum behind them which helps to move air quickly over the wings and keep the plane flying.
6. Landing Gear
The landing gear is a set of wheels that supports and provides a surface for an aircraft to land on. This is usually located under the fuselage and consists of two sets. The main landing gear supports the weight of the whole plane but will fold up and retract into the fuselage during takeoff or landing. It also serves a secondary purpose of making the plane stable. Wheels under each wing and at the nose of a plane help provide balance in flight so that there is not too much side-to-side rocking.
The cockpit is the nerve center of the plane. It houses all of the control systems pilots need to operate their aircraft. The cockpit typically consists of a pilot and co-pilot that work within a glass bubble which can be made of carbon fiber or aluminum. Most cockpits are also fitted with heads-up displays that provide information such as airspeed, altitude, and direction. During the flight, the pilot sits directly behind the controls. These include the throttle, which controls how much fuel is used to power engines, and engines which control how fast air is passed over the blades of propellers.
There is much more than meets the eye when creating a plane. The technology and engineering that goes into it are astounding. Technicians, engineers, and scientists work around the clock to ensure that our aircraft can handle whatever forces. The more you know about how an airplane is built, the better you will be able to appreciate it.