What Is on the Outside of an Aircraft?
If given a diagram of an aircraft, many people could confidently label the wings, nose, tail, and perhaps the aircraft engine. When tasked with identifying such components as the empennage or power plants, their confidence levels may dip. There a few key components that make up the aircraft design that is universally recognized.
The fuselage is the central body that carries passengers, crew, and cargo. It is cylindrical in design in order to accommodate the change in pressure during flight. Attached to the fuselage are the aircraft wings and tail. The way in which these components are attached to the body has changed over time. The truss structure is an older design based around a triangular structure typically constructed using both wood and aluminum tubing. Today, the monocoque and semi-monocoque designs are more popular. Monocoque, a French word loosely translated to “single hull” is best described in terms of a soda can. The fuselage can have relatively thin walls, yet the overall strength and integrity of the structure is impressive. Semi monocoque fuselage structures are defined in terms of bulkheads and frames. A row of bulkheads is supported by metal stringer that run the length of the plane. The bulkheads and stringers are encased in an aluminum skin that is riveted into place.
The placement, number, and shape of the wing all vary depending on the aircraft type. High, mid, lower wing aircraft refer to the positioning of the wing on the fuselage. Similarly, an aircraft can be named after the number of wings it has. Airplanes with a single set of wings are referred to as monoplanes, while those with two sets are called biplanes. The interior of a wing is hollow but supported by spars, ribs and stringers. Fuel tanks are stored in the wings to provide rigidity. To produce lift, most aircraft wings feature the airfoil design.
The propeller, engine, and engine cowling are collectively known as the aircraft powerplant. Power is provided by the engine and is used to turn the propeller. Thrust is the forward force created by the propeller. A type of housing known as cowling covers the engine and helps to streamline the airflow around the engine.
Similar to those found in cars, the firewall is placed in between the passengers and the engine as a safety measure. Firewalls can be made out of stainless steel, titanium, or a terne plate.
The entire tail end of the aircraft is called the empennage. Both the horizontal stabilizer and vertical stabilizer are fixed surfaces that are accompanied by movable surfaces such as the rudder, elevator, and trim tabs. Each of these components help control the movements of the aircraft.
Without the landing gear an aircraft would not be able to takeoff, taxi, or land. Typically, an aircraft is equipped with wheels, however aircraft can be equipped with floats or skis. Two main wheels are located at the front of the aircraft with one wheel located at the rear. Rudder pedals or differential braking help steer the aircraft.
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