An airplane is an intricately designed machine. Not one component is solely responsible for getting it up in the air. All of its parts work together to balance aerodynamic factors and operating requirements. The main parts of the body of an aircraft are the fuselage, the wings, the empennage, the landing gear, and the engines. A simple way to understand the body of an aircraft is to compare it to the human body.
The fuselage is like the torso of the body— it connects all of the appendages and makes them whole. The wings and the empennage are connected to it; the fuselage houses the cockpit and cabin which include the restrooms, galleys, kitchens, and flight attendant seating. A fuselage is designed around payload requirements, aerodynamics, and structures. On a passenger aircraft, the upper part of the fuselage cross-section houses the passengers and the lower part houses cargo. The landing gear on an aircraft absorbs the stress of take-offs and landings and slow an aircraft down after ground contact. Larger aircraft have retractable landing gear, which is housed in the aircraft's fuselage during the flight to make the aircraft more aerodynamic.
The wings are like arms— they are connected to the middle of the aircraft. The wings are most often the part of an aircraft that provide lift. The lift coefficient varies with the angle of attack. Increasing the angle of attack will increase lift up to the maximum lift coefficient— also known as the critical angle of attack. Going above this will cause an aircraft to enter into a stall.
Wings have various additions, including spoilers, trailing-edge flaps, leading-edge slats, and ailerons. Spoilers are deployed during landing to slow the aircraft down; they reduce lift in a controlled way. Flaps are deployed for takeoff and landing to increase lift. Leading edge slats allow wings to operate at higher angles of attack. Ailerons usually form part of the trailing edge of a wing and are used to control the rolling motion, therefore changing the flight path. On passenger jets, the engines are usually located below the wings. Engines are housed in engine nacelles, which reduce drag and direct airflow for the purpose of cooling the engine.
Located on the tail of an aircraft, the empennage is like the legs— it provides balance. An empennage has a vertical and a horizontal stabilizer. The vertical stabilizer controls yaw and the horizontal stabilizer controls pitch. Yaw is the movement of an aircraft along the vertical axis; it’s often used with the ailerons to control and balance the direction of an aircraft. Pitch is the movement of an aircraft along the horizontal axis; it controls the aircraft moving up or down.
Each component in the body of an aircraft is important to flight. Just like the human body, every system interacts with and balances each other. Without one, the aircraft would not fly properly.
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