The Parts of an Airplane
What Does Each Part Do?
The Cockpit or Flight Deck is where the pilot sits within the Fuselage (main body of the aircraft). In the cockpit of many planes, there are two sets of controls. Either of the pilots can control the aircraft. Pilots can choose to take turns flying without having to land the plane to switch seats! In most aircraft, both controls are synchronized to each other. If you were to move one, the other would automatically move the same way. Traditionally, the co-pilot sits in the right seat.
The Propeller is spun by an Engine, usually located inside the Nose Cowling. It provides the power to move the aircraft.
The Wings, given enough airflow, can generate the lift needed to keep the plane in the air. In many cases they also contain the fuel tanks. The left wing tip has a red light; the right wing tip has a green light. That way, at night, you can tell if the plane is coming towards you or going away from you. Movable hinged Flaps on the trailing edge (back side) of the wing can be engaged to help slow the airplane down. The drag they create alters the wings natural disposition to create lift.
Further away from the fuselage on the wings are Ailerons, which are also movable hinged parts that move up and down. They are engaged by turning the yoke (steering wheel) left or right. When one aileron is lowered, the other is raised (they
react opposite of each other). This will “Tilt” the aircraft to the left or right along the aircraft’s longitudinal axis (“X axis,” invisible line running from front to back of the aircraft). The movement created is called Roll.
The Vertical Stabilizer is usually located on the tail (back) of the aircraft. It helps steady the nose of the plane to control unwanted swinging from side to side. The Rudder is a hinged movable flap on the trailing edge of the Vertical Stabilizer that helps rotate (turn) the nose of the airplane right or left along the aircraft’s vertical axis (“Z axis,” invisible line running from bottom of plane to top). It is controlled by right and left foot pedals that allow coordinated turns. The movement created is called Yaw.
The Horizontal Stabilizer is usually located on the tail (back) of the aircraft. It contains an Elevator which is a movable hinged part that enables the aircraft to pitch up or down along the aircraft’s lateral axis (“Y axis,” invisible line running from wing to wing). It is controlled by the Yoke. The movement created is called Pitch. Landing Gear supports the airplane when it is not flying. There are many types of landing gear. If a plane has a wheel near the front of the aircraft (nose wheel) and two other areas of support on either side of its center of gravity, it is said to have Tricycle landing gear. If the aircraft has a wheel at the back of the plane it is called a Tail Dragger. Some aircraft have floats or skis instead of wheels! Some landing gear retract into the aircraft when the plane is in the air; this decreases drag, allowing the aircraft to go faster.
What forces act on an airplane in flight?
Four basic aerodynamic forces act on an airplane when in flight.
Thrust is produced by an engine that spins a propeller or a turbine engine expelling hot gas.
Drag is friction between the airplane’s body and the surrounding air.
Lift is created by the movement of the air around the wings.
Weight is caused by gravity, the force of attraction between the Earth and the aircraft.
Did You Know?
Most general aviation aircraft are inspected annually. Any aircraft that carries a person for “hire” (such as an aerial photographer) or that is used for flight instruction is required to be inspected after every 100 hours of flight time.