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Automotive

AIRPLANES: PARTS AND THEIR FUNCTIONS

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An aircraft is composed of different parts. When you own a plane, you have to make sure that you look at the sub-parts and the plane’s main components, and the spare parts used when one part fails.

This section aims to grow awareness about each part’s importance, no matter how small it is.

1. THE FUSELAGE

Fuselage

It holds the structure together and accommodates passengers and cargo. Modern aircraft fuselage may accommodate up to 800 passengers in economy class (e.g., A380) and up to 112,700kg cargo (e.g., B747-400ER).

The cockpit

It holds the command and control section of an airplane. Modern aircraft cockpits have several vital instruments for controlling the aircraft on the ground and when flying.

2. POWER-PLANT AND UNDERCARRIAGE

Engines generate thrust and provide hydraulic and electric power. Modern aircraft are employed with different engines, although jet engines are favored by most commercial airliners.

The undercarriage, also known as landing gear, provides a platform for the aircraft to stand and plays a crucial role in landing and take-off.

3. WINGS

Wings generate lift and control the airflow while flying. Wing design is a crucial factor in aviation: a wing is designed to reduce drag at the leading edge, generate lift by its crescent and manage airflow using the rear edge. 

Furthermore, while gliding (i.e., without engine power), the wings allow the pilot to increase and decrease the descent rate.

It adjusts the wings’ angle of attack, increasing lift. Slats are fitted at the wings’ leading edges, and deploying them increases the wings’ angle of attack, allowing the pilot to increase the wing’s generated lift.

Flaps

It adjusts the camber of the wings, increasing lift. Flaps usually are fitted at the trailing edge of the wings.

Extending the flaps increases the wing’s airfoil’s camber, increasing lift at lower speeds, a vital feature for landing.

Spoilers

It adjusts the camber of wing sections, decreasing lift. Spoilers are fitted on top of the wings and used controlled to reduce the wing section’s charge.

Spoilers are useful for decreasing lift without increasing the airspeed of the airplane or without increasing drag significantly.

Ailerons

It increases or decreases lift asymmetrically to change roll and moves the aircraft left or right while flying. Ailerons are hinged sections fitted at the rear of each wing. 

Ailerons work asymmetrically as a pair: as the right aileron goes up, the left one comes down and vice versa, making the aircraft roll right or left, respectively.

4. TAIL

The horizontal stabilizer

It helps maintain an airplane’s equilibrium and stability in flight. It does so by providing a mini wing at a certain distance from the main wings (typically at the back, although it can also be positioned at the front of the aircraft). This smaller wing produces enough lift to control the pitch of the plane and maintain its stability. 

Although an aircraft without a horizontal stabilizer could, in principle, fly with wings only, controlling its pitch and airspeed would be difficult, as pitch and, subsequently, airspeed can be easily disturbed by air conditions: as soon as the aircraft pitches up, the tendency is to continue pitching up even further and decrease airspeed; and as soon as the aircraft pitches down, the movement then is to continue pitching down even further and increase airspeed. 

However, an aircraft with a horizontal stabilizer could fly hand-offs (once correctly trimmed) without affecting its pitch and speed.

Elevators

It increases or decreases lift on the horizontal stabilizer symmetrically to control the pitch motion of an airplane.

Elevators are hinged surfaces fitted at the rear of the horizontal stabilizer.

They work symmetrically as a pair: when the elevators are up, the aircraft ascends; when the elevators are down, the plane descends, and when the elevators are horizontal, the aircraft flies straight.

The vertical stabilizer

It prevents lateral movements of the airplane. Without a vertical stabilizer, most aircraft would lose lateral control, slip, increase drag, and become uncontrollable.

The rudder

It controls the yaw motion of an airplane. 

The rudder is a hinged surface fitted to the vertical stabilizer. When the rudder is turned to the left, the aircraft turns to the left in the horizontal plane; 

When the rudder is turned to the right, the aircraft turns to the right. The rudder is used to turn the plane left or right on the ground.

In the air, however, the rudder is primarily used to coordinate left and right turns (the turns themselves are done with the ailerons) or counter adverse yaw (e.g., when crosswinds push the airplane sideways).

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