Different Parts of an Airplane and Their Purposes

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(Image: airplane image by Christine F Saulnier from Fotolia.com)

Airplanes are the primary vehicle used to transport people and cargo over long distances. The various parts of an airplane have specific purposes, all working to keep the plane aloft and functioning effectively. Regardless of size and shape, all airplanes have basic parts that lift the weight of the airplane and control its speed, turning capabilities, and balance in the air.

Fuselage

The fuselage is the body of the airplane. This is where the crew, passengers and cargo are held. The fuselage also holds all the other parts of the airplane together. The cockpit is located in the front of the fuselage, and the passenger and cargo areas are located in the back. Some airplanes also carry their fuel in the fuselage.

Cockpit

The cockpit is located in the front of the fuselage. The cockpit is where the pilot and any other flying and navigating staff sit and operate the plane. The cockpit is the main control center of the airplane and is also where the radio controls are located.

Horizontal Stabilizer

The horizontal stabilizer (the small, rear "wings" of the plane) is attached to the back of the fuselage. It does not move or rotate, and prevents up and down movement of the nose, known as "pitch." The purpose of the stabilizer is to balance the plane, provide stability and keep the aircraft flying straight.

Elevator

The elevator is located on the back of horizontal stabilizer, attached by hinges. Elevators operate in pairs so that when the right elevator goes up, so does the left. Their purpose it to control the up and down movement of the nose. The angle of attack of the wind on the wings is also controlled by the elevators.

Rudder

The rudder is a moving part that is attached to the vertical stabilizer of the tail, which is located on the back of the fuselage. It is attached by hinges. The purpose of the rudder is to control the side-to-side motion, otherwise known as "yaw," of the aircraft.

Wings

The wings of the aircraft are located on either side of the fuselage. The wings support the weight of the plane and all the passengers, cargo and fuel. Their purpose is to provide lift so that the airplane can take off and remain in the air.

Ailerons

The ailerons are movable sections located on the outer part of the back edge of each wing. When one aileron moves up, the other moves down. Ailerons create a rolling motion that assists in turning and banking the airplane.

Flaps

Flaps are located on the back of the airplane's wings, close to the fuselage. They are movable parts, attached by hinges, that turn up, or down. The purpose of the flaps up, vertical, is to enable the plane to fly more slowly. During takeoff and landing, the flaps are moved to a down, horizontal, position, which increases force from the wing.

Landing Gear

The landing gear--the wheels of the airplane--is located under the fuselage. In addition to allowing the plane to land and take off, the wheels are used to drive the airplane on the runways while it is grounded. On some planes the landing gear is always out. Other airplanes can retract the landing gear while in the air.

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