Parts of an Airplane

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  • 0:04 Main Parts of an Airplane
  • 0:36 Engine, Tail, & Wings
  • 2:06 Cockpit & Fuselage
  • 3:44 Landing Gear
  • 4:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

What parts make up an airplane? Learn where each part of an airplane is found, and what those parts of the plane do. Then test your knowledge with a short quiz.

The Main Parts of an Airplane

Traveling on airplanes is a pretty normal practice these days, especially if you live in the USA. Flying short distances is almost as common as jumping on a bus for some people, particularly if they fly for business. But most people get on a plane knowing next to nothing about how that plane works or how it is put together. Have you ever stopped to wonder why the plane is shaped the way it is? Or what each section is called?

In this lesson, we're going to go through a few of the parts that make up an airplane and talk about what they are and what they do.

Engines, Tail, and Wings

The engines, tail, and wings are the parts of a plane that make it actually fly--they're the functional parts. The engines are the cylindrical parts usually found under (or sometimes just above) the wings, and they drive the plane forward. There are many different types of engines, from simple propellers to the jet engines found on most modern passenger planes. But the goal is the same: to push air behind the plane and force the plane forward. It's like when you move a boat forward by pushing the water back through rowing or using an engine, except it's air instead of water.

The tail is the very back of the plane. You might have noticed that planes tend to have a particular shape right at the back, and it's there for a reason. Most of the tail is stationary, but it also contains movable parts called flaps. There is usually a vertical flap called a rudder, which points the plane left or right. There are also two horizontal flaps called elevators, which point the plane up or down. Together, these are what the pilot uses to control the plane.

The wings of the plane are what make it able to fly in the first place--they produce an upward force called lift. The wings are the parts that stretch out from the side of the plane. Wings can stretch out perfectly straight or be angled up slightly because an upward angle reduces the chance of the plane rolling unexpectedly. Wings also contain the main flaps that allow pilots to take off and land at lower speeds and outer flaps called ailerons that allow the plane to bank left or right.

Cockpit and Fuselage

The fuselage is the middle of the plane, where humans and cargo are found. The fuselage is a part that doesn't really aid in the flight--its purpose is to hold the passengers and cargo. Within the fuselage, you also find the cockpit, which is where the pilot and copilot sit to control the plane. A modern cockpit is a confusing array of screens, lights, dials, and buttons doing all kinds of things. Let's take a quick look at the main parts of a cockpit.

The most important parts of a cockpit are the control column and rudder pedals, because these are the main ways to control the plane. The control column is basically a steering wheel or joystick that causes the plane to point up or down and roll left or right. The rudder pedals are pedals for the pilot's feet that actually point the plane left or right. These controls move the various flaps we've already talked about.

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