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Parts of an Aircraft

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1. Read about the various major parts of an airplane, then proceed to Step 2

Although there are many aircraft designs flying today, most of them share a common assembly of major parts that all pilots should be thoroughly aware of. Ever since the early days of aviation, an aviator’s primary training included the fundamental knowledge of what each part is called, its function and where it is located.

Each major part of a fixed-wing aircraft serves an important purpose. For example, the propeller helps move the aircraft through the air via thrust. The wings are lifting bodies which help keep the aircraft airborne. The horizontal and vertical stabilizers contain vital control surfaces; and the fuselage is a major structural component containing crew and passenger areas.


The importance of knowing each part is reinforced when you undergo flight training and student pilots are always taught the necessity of performing a good preflight check of the aircraft. Knowing the function of each component allows you to understand what looks good and what might appear abnormal. In addition, to truly understand how an airplane flies, you must first study the major components and the forces involved with flight. Airfoils are surfaces, which by design, produce lift. If you understand that concept then you’ll realize that various parts of the airplane produce lift in some form or another. The same goes for learning about each part and how it fits into the overall wonder of flight. Doctors study the body’s anatomy well before they begin treating patients. So, why wouldn’t you need to know an aircraft’s anatomy before leaving the ground for the first time?
The wings generate most of the lift to hold the plane in the air. To generate lift, the airplane must be pushed through the air. The air resists the motion in the form of aerodynamic drag. Modern airliners use winglets on the tips of the wings to reduce drag. The turbine engines, which are located beneath the wings, provide the thrust to overcome drag and push the airplane forward through the air. Smaller, low-speed airplanes use propellers for the propulsion system instead of turbine engines.
To control and maneuver the aircraft, smaller wings are located at the tail of the plane. The tail usually has a fixed horizontal piece, called the horizontal stabilizer, and a fixed vertical piece, called the vertical stabilizer. The stabilizers' job is to provide stability for the aircraft, to keep it flying straight. The vertical stabilizer keeps the nose of the plane from swinging from side to side, which is called yaw. The horizontal stabilizer prevents an up-and-down motion of the nose, which is called pitch.
At the rear of the wings and stabilizers are small moving sections that are attached to the fixed sections by hinges. In the figure, these moving sections are colored brown. Changing the rear portion of a wing will change the amount of force that the wing produces. The ability to change forces gives us a means of controlling and maneuvering the airplane. The hinged part of the vertical stabilizer is called the rudder; it is used to deflect the tail to the left and right as viewed from the front of the fuselage. The hinged part of the horizontal stabilizer is called the elevator; it is used to deflect the tail up and down. The outboard hinged part of the wing is called the aileron; it is used to roll the wings from side to side. Most airliners can also be rolled from side to side by using the spoilers. Spoilers are small plates that are used to disrupt the flow over the wing and to change the amount of force by decreasing the lift when the spoiler is deployed.
The wings have additional hinged, rear sections near the body that are called flaps. Flaps are deployed downward on takeoff and landing to increase the amount of force produced by the wing. On some aircraft, the front part of the wing will also deflect. Slats are used at takeoff and landing to produce additional force. The spoilers are also used during landing to slow the plane down and to counteract the flaps when the aircraft is on the ground. The next time you fly on an airplane, notice how the wing shape changes during takeoff and landing.
The fuselage or body of the airplane, holds all the pieces together. The pilots sit in the cockpit at the front of the fuselage. Passengers and cargo are carried in the rear of the fuselage. Some aircraft carry fuel in the fuselage; others carry the fuel in the wings.

** For more information, use the link below to read another detailed explanation of an aircraft’s parts and how they function.

Article: Part of the Plane

2. Watch today’s video for a brief visual overview of an airplane’s parts:

Video: Parts of the Plane

Video: Parts of Plane

3. Using the following vocabulary list, match the lettered parts of the airplane diagram with their appropriate terminology.

nose wing vertical stabilizer fuselage flaps
nose landing gear horizontal stabilizer rudder empennage leading edge
main landing gear ailerons elevator wingtip door









I ___________

J ___________

K ___________

L ___________


O ___________

P ___________

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