Flight Academy 101 – Aircraft Anatomy
Humans have spent thousands of years gazing at birds in flight, wistfully dreaming of a day that humans can join the elegant dance. In terms of humanity, we have only just cracked this puzzle. But how much do you really know about how aircraft manage to fly? What secrets do they teach at flight academy?
Staying in the air is the crucial part, right? So how does a plane create ‘lift’? What components allow control enough to simply travel where desired, or perform aerial acrobatics? The following are four of the most significant parts to safe flight, and safe landings.
Logically, the most crucial element to an airplane. Wings split the oncoming air unequally over and under the wing. Directing more air under the wing increases pressure, which results in the continual pushing force upwards (called lift), delivering flight.
Found on the rear edge of the wings. Flaps are used to increase drag (slowing the plane) during landing, or lowering the airspeed necessary to safely fly.
Rudders are found on the rear vertical stabilisers (the small wings at the tail of a plane), and much akin to a boat rudder is used to change the direction the aircraft travels.
As necessary as it sounds, having a structure to land on is as crucial to flight as wings are for lift. Landing gear most commonly features wheels, tyres and brakes. On larger craft, retractable landing gear is utilised to reduce drag.
Where do humans come into the fold? This section details the components that a pilot will directly control during flight.
Quite literally where everything happens. This is the body of the plane, housing the cockpit, cabin, luggage. All wings branch off the fuselage.
Auxiliary Power Unit
Provides power on the ground or when the main engines are not in operation. The auxiliary power unit can supply power in technical emergencies.
The home of the pilots, crew, instrument, and the controls for flight. Found often at the nose of the aircraft.
Turbo Jet Engine
On airliners and larger planes, turbo jet engines provide thrust and power for the aircraft. Powered by compressing air, mixing fuel, burning and further compressing and releasing the exhaust. This would require its own page to explain sufficiently.
Lesser known details
Aircraft are not so simple. In addition to above, there feature several less known components.
All about drag. Winglets attach to the ends of the wing, the upward peaks reduce the drag created by the wingtip.
Changing what is known as the ‘angle of attack’. Slats are found on the front end of the wing, and allow the pilot to increase the ‘lift’ generated. This makes possible to fly slower during landing, or steeper before stalling.
Referred to above, stabilisers are the vertical and horizontal wing set at the tail of the aircraft. They act to reduce unintended direction change on the vertical or horizontal axis.
Located on the rear end of the wings, normally near the wingtip. Ailerons are used to control the roll of the aircraft. Often functioning in pairs, as one is raised, the opposite dips.