As pilot I often get asked many questions about airplanes and their nature; I happily comply with their little heart’s desires for the thirst of knowledge about aviation. What does this do? How does this work? What in the world is that thing? People are rather inquisitive about the parts of an airplane. An airplane can be broken down into four easy simple categories, the fuselage, the wings, the empennage (tail section), and the engine.
The fuselage, the portion which all other pieces of the aircraft usually attach to, contains the most important material, the passengers and pilots. It is the equivalent of the car’s body/chassis, and it is easily recognizable because that is where the windows are. In the front of the fuselage is the cockpit where the amazing pilots do their aviating and fly the plane. It also contains special points where wings are attached. Below the fuselage is where the landing gear attaches. This is what usually retracts into the body of the plane and lowers for landings for the plane to rest upon. The fuselage is an easy simple piece of an airplane.
What’s the most recognizable piece of an airplane? Wings are without a doubt the signature piece of an airplane. That’s what makes them fly! Wings have control surfaces on themselves to help orientate the aircraft. Within the wings, usually about a ¼ to ½ the wing’s length at the end, are separated and hinged wing pieces that move up and down called ailerons. The left and right ailerons move in opposite directions to change the direction of lift momentarily. This brief change of lift allows the aircraft to bank and change its direction. Newer more modern plane wings have what’s called winglets. Winglets, an upward curved end piece of the wing, decrease wingtip vortices to reduce drag and increase efficiency. These wing devices are easy to spot when an aircraft has them; I love to give people an example of this by telling them to look up Southwest airline’s Boeing 737, for winglets are the signature look of it. Another piece of the wing, flaps, aid in landing the aircraft. Flaps usually take up the remaining portion of the wing not taken by ailerons. They move only downwards, except to retract, to increase lift, drag, and slow down the aircraft to prepare for landing. One more important member of the wing family is lift. A wing’s curvature and architecture slices through the air which creates different areas of pressure above and beneath the wing. An attraction between the pressure below the wing to the pressure above the wing thus results in this amazing unseen force. Without this magical entity, airplanes could not fly. When you add everything I’ve talked about into one, a wing is created; Now you know what this vital piece is next time you see a plane.
Well what does that tail section do? The tail section, formally called the...