Airplanes are some of the most incredible pieces of machinery that have ever been built. But what are all the parts of a plane that lets them take to the skies?
It would take weeks or months to read about every single part or component of an airplane. For brevity’s sake, there are six main parts groups of an airplane: cockpit, fuselage, engines, wings, tail, and landing gear. In each group, there are main parts that make up each one as you’ll see below.
If you wanted to really learn about every part of an airplane, it would be almost impossible unless you’re a technician with years of experience. Let’s be honest, you don’t really want to know every little detail. In this article, you’ll learn about the most important parts of a plane, the ones that enable you to fly safely through the air.
Our number one priority here at SkyTough is providing our readers with accurate and up-to-date information about everything we write about. When it comes to something like parts of an airplane, the general ideas haven’t changed too much in recent years. Through our years of experience combined with research and discussions with other experts in the field, we’ve come up with the comprehensive guide you see below into learning the parts of an airplane.
What Are The Parts Of An Airplane And Their Functions?
Airplanes are without a doubt some of the most incredible machines ever built. While we might be just a little biased to that fact due to our love of all things aviation, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch for most people to agree. Let’s face it, absolutely massive metal objects flying through the sky at tens of thousands of feet in the air and hundreds of miles per hour, transporting people and goods around the world in just a few hours. It’s amazing!
But we all know the history of aviation and how exceedingly difficult it was to figure out back in the early 20th century. And what’s even crazier about the entire world of aviation is that in just over 100 years, we’ve gone from making the first ever successful flight to modern day aviation capable of flying from one side of the world to the other — not even to mention traveling to outer space.
Aviation, airplanes, and flight has come such a long way in such a relatively short amount of time. And that’s one of the most intriguing aspects of aviation that drew us to this field in the first place. With how incredible flight is, it makes you wonder how it even works. How can airplanes possibly get into the air and travel all over the world in just a matter of hours, all while making it back safely?
Well, that comes down to the amazing engineering, ingenuity, and design of aircraft. And at its base, that further comes down to the ways in which all the parts of an airplane work together to create the perfect flying machine.
So let’s take a look at the parts of an airplane so that you can see how they all work together and provide us with the beauty of flight.
What Parts Are In An Airplane’s Cockpit?
Let’s start with the hub of the airplane, where you’ll be spending all your time as a pilot — in the cockpit. The cockpit is the brain of the aircraft where the pilot and crew sit, regardless of if you’re talking about a smaller private plane or a big commercial passenger jet. This is where the magic happens and where the pilot gets to put their skills to the test.
In a passenger jet, the cockpit is a pretty big area at the front of the plane where multiple people can sit, stand, and spend time. Well of course, since there are at least two pilots plus the crew can go into the cockpit as well. On personal aircraft, especially single-engine airplanes, the cockpit is typically just big enough for the pilot to be seated during flight. There is nowhere to walk around, it’s not some big open area.
But in either case, the cockpit is one of the most important parts of the plane. Without it, the pilots would have nowhere to actually fly the plane from. Let’s take a look at the most important parts found in the cockpit of airplanes.
The instrument panel is essential for any pilot and on any flight, since the vast majority of flights follow Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). This means that pilots actually fly based on their instrumentation rather than their own vision. The panel includes all sorts of information such as speed, altitude, avionics control, and more.
Since the pilot flies the aircraft from the cockpit, it makes sense that the flight controls are located there. The most prominent of which is the control column (or joystick) that the pilot uses to guide the plane around.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but in the cockpit, we’re of course referring to the pilot’s seats. In small personal aircraft, there’s usually a single pilot’s seat. In commercial aircraft, there can be 2-4 seats depending on the plane.
The rudder is typically controlled using pedals located on the floor of the cockpit. The two pedals are easy to navigate, as the right pedal will deflect the rudder to the right, and vice versa for the left. This is done to control the yaw of the airplane.
The overhead panel is much simpler than the instrument panel and offers the pilot control of some of the airplane’s other systems. Things such as HVAC control, fuel systems, and some electrical systems are controlled here.
One of the best perks of being a pilot is the panoramic view that you get from the cockpit. In just about any type of airplane, the cockpit is mostly surrounded by glass to give the pilot the best view of their surroundings. This makes it easier to fly but also leads to the best views on the planet!
What Parts Are In An Airplane’s Fuselage?
The body of the airplane is up next, the fuselage. The airplane’s fuselage is the long, tubular shape that makes up the vast majority of the plane itself, literally making up the plane’s body. The fuselage is where passengers sit, cargo is stashed away, and more. This part of the plane is of course far bigger on commercial airliners than something like a single-seat personal aircraft, but the general aspects of the fuselage are typically similar across the board.
Unlike the other major parts groups and systems in this guide, the fuselage is not really made up of other smaller parts and pieces that we can elaborate on. It really is just the body of the plane that holds everything else together. The nose, wings, tail, and landing gear of the plane are all connected to the fuselage in their own right. The fuselage contains the cockpit up in the front, and in commercial jets, the fuselage will also contain the cabin and all the passenger’s seats.
In the end, when you think of the fuselage, just think of the body of the plane in almost its entirety. Without the fuselage, there is no plane. Just a nose, wings, and tail laying on the ground totally disconnected from one another.
What Parts Are In An Airplane’s Engines?
Let’s face it, without the plane’s engines you wouldn’t be getting anywhere — the plane would never move! Engines are vastly different when you compare a small, single-engine aircraft to a commercial passenger or cargo jet, but we’ll tackle the biggest and most important parts of each type to cover all bases.
For the types of planes that you’ll be flying as a private pilot or while you’re training to become a pilot at the beginning, you’ll almost certainly be using an engine with a propeller. These are typically referred to as turboprop engines. This type of engine uses a turbine that powers and spins the propeller, helping to drive the airplane through the air. These small engines don’t typically make a lot of power, but they do exactly what they’re designed for — getting small aircraft up into the air with more than enough power to enjoy a sustained flight.
Of course, there is a massive difference between turboprop engines found on small aircraft and the jet engines seen on commercial aircraft. And by massive, we mean that literally and figuratively. Jet engines are far bigger than turboprops, and they also produce significantly more power (thrust). These engines generate thrust using propulsion from the back of the engines to push the planes through the air. The amount of power that jet engines produce is insane, enabling massive planes to effortlessly fly through the air.
Let’s go over the main parts of an airplane’s engines to give you an idea of how they work and provide all that power.
Turboprop engines are turbine engines that are designed to turn an aircraft’s propeller — hence the “prop” portion of the name. By turning the plane’s propeller (which is basically just a pair of small wing-like airfoils), the turboprop engine is able to generate thrust and propel the plane through the air. Just like with wings, this is done by creating a pressure differential due to the shape of the blades and subsequent airflow around them.
As the name implies, jet engines are found in, well, jets. Or rather, jets are typically referred to as jets instead of other kinds of aircraft because of the fact that they have jet engines in the first place. Jet engines also use a turbine, but they combine compressed air with fuel and ignite it, firing the engines and allowing the turbines to spin at incredible speeds as the engines run. These engines produce thrust through propulsion, as they exhaust the highly-accelerated air from the rear and push the plane through the air.
What Parts Are In An Airplane’s Wings?
When it comes to airplanes and the seeming impossibility that these big, heavy hunks of metal can fly through the air, it really comes down to the wings in the end. The wings of an aircraft are of utmost importance, and without their ability to create differences in air pressure around them, a plane could never even leave the ground. Much less fly from one side of the world to the other.
The wings of an airplane and the way that they work are a bit of a complex concept, we’ll give you a quick overview here so that you have a better understanding of just how important the wings really are to the success of flight and aviation in general. As mentioned above, it’s all about creating differences in air pressure. But what exactly does that even mean?
The beauty of wings — both aesthetically and for the sake of flight — comes down to the ways in which they’re shaped. If you look at the wing of an aircraft, you’ll see that the top of the wing is curved and the bottom is much flatter. This increases the surface area over the top of the wing compared to the bottom. This difference forces air to move faster over the top of the wing than it has to along the bottom of the wing.
When airflow is forced to speed up and move faster, the pressure decreases. Conversely, when air is moving slowly (under the wing), the pressure increases. The shape of the wing and the different airspeeds above and below lead to a difference in air pressure; lower pressure above and higher pressure underneath. This difference in pressure is all it takes to naturally generate lift and propel the plane into the air. Voila, you have flight.
Of course, there is a lot more to it than just that, but that’s the general premise of how wings enable planes to fly. The wings are the true magic of an aircraft, and these are the most important parts.
Ailerons are located on the trailing edge of the wings and are used by the pilot to control rotation along the plane’s longitudinal axis known as roll. These are one of the three main control surfaces that pilots use to control the airplane during flight.
These are also located on the trailing edge of the wings but they are used differently than ailerons. Flaps are used to generate extra lift or drag during takeoff and landing depending on what is needed.
Slats are similar in operation to flaps, but they’re located on the leading edge of the wings. Slats are typically only used during takeoff to generate more lift, not so much so to generate drag like flaps can be used for.
Spoilers are special parts of the wings that are used to reduce the lift and allow the plane to descend without simultaneously losing airspeed. These are essential for properly controlled descent during flight.
The wings are not only vital because they generate the lift to get the planes into the sky, but they also act as the fuel tanks for most planes. Pilots will typically set their fuel system up to take from both wings at all times to keep fuel levels similar on each side of the plane.
What Parts Are In An Airplane’s Tail?
Similar to the wings and almost just as important, airplanes would not be able to reliably fly without a tail. The tail is the back of the airplane and is mainly tasked with stability and control. With both vertical and horizontal control surfaces, especially including the rudder, the tail is essential for successful flight in general. Even on aircraft that don’t have wings — like a helicopter — there is still a tail. They are incredibly important for flight!
As you can probably guess from the part names below, the main point of the tail is to provide stability to the aircraft in ways that no other part of the plane can. While the single most important aspect of the tail is often thought to be the rudder, every aspect is important for a successful flight.
The vertical stabilizer, often referred to as the tail fin, is there to provide stability along the vertical axis. Basically to control the yaw of the airplane, which is where the rudder is also located. The horizontal stabilizer that typically cuts through the tail fin is there to control rotation along the horizontal axis, or the pitch. This prevents the airplane from tilting too far forward or too far back. Without the tail, the plane would be nigh impossible to control and a crash would largely be inevitable.
These are the most important parts of an airplane’s tail that enable you to fly through the air.
Horizontal Stabilizer (Elevator)
The horizontal stabilizer is located on the plane’s tail and offers stability in terms of pitch, or tilting forwards or backwards along the lateral axis of the airplane. The pilot further controls the pitch by adjusting the elevator on the horizontal stabilizer.
Vertical Stabilizer (Rudder)
The rudder is located on the vertical stabilizer on the plan’s tail. The vertical stabilizer by itself helps to control the yaw of the plane and offers passive stability. The rudder gives the pilot a bit more control over the yaw of the plane and is one of the most important aspects of flying that pilots need to master to truly become experts in their field.
What Parts Are In An Airplane’s Landing Gear?
Lastly, let’s take a look at the parts that make up an airplane’s landing gear. After all, without landing gear, it would be incredibly difficult to safely land a plane. In many cases, it would even be downright impossible. The landing gear enables pilots to safely touch down on the runway and keep control of the aircraft throughout the entire landing process.
The aircraft that you learn to become a pilot in, such as single-engine aircraft, pretty much always have permanently fixed landing gear that's always visible. Just take a look at any of these smaller planes that you’ve been flying (or that you plan on flying). You see those wheels? That’s the landing gear! Without those wheels, how would you be able to land, taxi, and ride around on the ground?
On business planes, commercial planes, and fighter jets, the landing gear is almost always hidden underneath the plane during flight. It is able to be retracted into the fuselage once airborne to reduce drag and prevent damage to the landing gear traveling at such heights and speeds. Once the pilot is coming in for a landing, the landing gear door will open up and everything will lower into place. In a passenger jet, you’ll audibly hear when this happens, and you’ll even feel the difference in ride comfort too. But it’s absolutely essential for a safe landing!
There are quite a few parts that make up this system, let’s break it down and take a look.
Just like the tires on your car, a plane’s tires are the only thing that actually ever make contact with the ground. They need to be reliable and able to handle the force associated with landings. If the tires fail, a pilot can easily lose control of the aircraft. So airplane tires need to be reinforced far more heavily than typical tires you’ll see on your car.
Shocks & Struts
These are similar to the shocks and struts on your car, where they attach the rest of the plane to the wheels/tires. The struts found on airplanes are absolutely massive though — you definitely don’t ever want one to snap on landing, or the consequences could be dire.
This is the retractable device that lowers the landing gear on bigger aircraft, i.e. not small personal airplanes. On most modern planes, the landing gear is deployed automatically once the plane reaches a certain altitude as it approaches the landing. It also retracts automatically after takeoff once the plane climbs to a certain altitude.
About THE AUTHOR
After spending years watching every video I could find about flying, I finally scratched the itch and got my pilots license. Now I fly every chance I get, and share the information I learn, here.Read More About Joe Haygood