Within the realm of aviation, there are many types of vehicles that fall under the Federal Aviation Administration’s official definition of aircraft. These include airplanes, rotorcraft, airships, gliders, paramotors, and hot air balloons. In regards to airplanes in particular, they are described by the FAA as a fixed-wing aircraft that are heavier-than-air and engine driven. While a plethora of fixed-wing aircraft types exist for various civil, military, and government applications, most share common major components that allow them to perform flight operations with ease. Across all fixed-wing aircraft types, the common major components include the fuselage, wings, empennage, and landing gear.
The aircraft fuselage serves as the main body of the vehicle, most often containing the crew, passengers, and cargo. From the fuselage, other components such as the wings and empennage may also be attached. The fuselage of an aircraft may be constructed in a variety of structure types, including the truss structure, geodesic construction, monocoque shell, and semi-monocoque construction. In regards to all-aluminum fuselages that are seen across many civil aircraft, the semi-monocoque design serves as the most common type. In the early days of aviation, fuselages were often composed of wood structures that were surrounded with fabric. Eventually, metal materials such as aluminum began to rise in popularity, soon overtaking the wood structure aircraft. In the present, many aircraft manufacturers are beginning to push towards composite aircraft fuselage structures due to their high strength-to-weight ratios. .
Attached to the fuselage are the aircraft wings, and they are responsible for generating lift through engineering and aerodynamic forces to allow for sustained flight. Aircraft wings are specifically designed to bear a great amount of bending and twisting loads that are enacted upon them during flight, and they may come in different shapes and materials. The three most common types of aircraft wings include biplane, braced monoplane, and cantilever wing configurations. Within wings, spars and ribs are assembled to provide its properties and strength. Other components, such as fuel tanks and fuel bladders, may also be placed within the wing structure as well. .
The aircraft empennage is the tail of the airplane, providing for stability during flight. Many aircraft empennage structures will also include vertical and horizontal stabilizing surfaces and control surfaces, allowing the aircraft and pilot to maintain and control the flight dynamics of yaw and pitch. The most common types of aircraft empennage structures include tailplanes, fins, outboard tails, X tails, Y tails, V tails, and tailless types. .
Beyond the structures that allow for heavier-than-air flight, landing gear is also critical to aircraft to permit takeoff and landing operations. Landing gear may come in the form of wheels, skids, floats, and other structures depending on the intended landing surface. In some planes, landing gear may be retractable to reduce the amount of drag created. While less common, landing gear may not be needed for takeoffs for some aircraft, and thus their landing gear is only for landing. .
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