The Parts of an Aircraft


The modern airplane is a complex machine with various systems working together to make controlled flight possible. Still, planes of today share certain basic characteristics with the early aircraft that established the aviation industry. All planes share certain fundamental components.


  • A plane without an engine would more properly be termed a glider, so a power source is an essential part of an airplane. Most planes either use propellers, which are driven by an internal combustion engine, or jet engines, which use turbines to create thrust. The engines used on a propeller plane are similar to those in a car or truck and are usually turbocharged to produce more power at higher altitudes. Jet engines discharge air that has been compressed in the turbine, providing more power than propellers and allowing planes to fly faster, longer and higher.


  • The interior or an airplane, known as the cabin, is subdivided into several sections such as the cargo cabin, the passenger cabin and the cockpit. The length of the airplane's body is known as the fuselage. The cockpit, or flight deck, is located at the front of the aircraft and contains the pilot's station with all of the necessary instruments and controls to fly the plane. Within the passenger cabin, one finds the seating areas, restrooms and galley (kitchen). The passenger cabin also contains storage areas and, often, entertainment equipment such as television monitors.


  • In order for a plane to be steered by the pilot, it must contain a system of rudders and wing flaps that can be controlled from the cockpit. The rudder is a vertical flap located at the tail of the plane, attached to the vertical stabilizer (which resembles a vertical wing). The rudder is turned to change the plane's yaw, turning it toward the left or right. The horizontal stabilizer, also at the rear of the plane, can be turned to control motion upward and downward (known as pitch). Other flaps on the wings themselves, known as the aileron, control the plane's roll from side to side, which is helpful in making sharper turns.

The Wings

  • Of course, an airplane needs wings in order to fly. Wings provide lift by manipulating the way air flows over them, creating areas of high and low pressure below and above the wing and pulling the aircraft upward. The design of wings is a complex process that involves extensive testing, including using a wind tunnel to measure the effects of even slight changes to a wing's shape or surface material. Wings contain flaps that the pilot can change to increase or decrease the amount of lift during takeoff or landing.

Inside the Cockipt

  • An airplane's cockpit contains the extensive system of controls that are available to the pilot and represent all other parts of the aircraft. The brakes and rudder are controlled in a manner similar to driving a car, with a steering wheel and several foot pedals. Engines can be powered up or down with a hand lever. Modern planes also include more advanced technology such as radar and satellite positioning, all of which are displayed on a series of screens in front of the pilot. The cockpit also contains all of the radio equipment needed to communicate with air traffic control on the ground.

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