Airplanes are produced using lightweight materials such as aluminum, composite materials,
or a combination of both. Some airplanes also contain wooden components. The main components
of an airplane are the fuselage, the wings, the empennage, and the powerplant.
The fuselage is the body of the airplane. It holds the passengers, pilots, and cargo,
and has attachment points for the other airplane components. Most small airplanes are of
the semi-monocoque design. This means the fuselage is made up of stringers attached to bulkheads
and formers, covered in a skin. The skin carries a portion of the loads imposed on the fuselage,
but is supported by the stringers and bulkheads. Semi-monocoque construction results in a strong,
A monocoque design is one in which the skin handles almost all the loads experienced by the
fuselage. While a monocoque design might still include bulkheads, there will be no stringers
attached. The result is a fuselage with load handling characteristics similar to an empty coke can.
It is very lightweight and, under normal circumstances, it is more than strong enough. If dented
or damaged, however, the strength is compromised. Because of this problem, a semi-monocoque design is preferred.
The wings carry the weight of the airplane when it is flying. An airplane may be described by the
number and location of its wings. A monoplane, biplane, or triplane has one, two, or three sets of wings,
respectively. An airplane can also be referred to as a high, mid, or low wing airplane, depending on whether
the wings are attached to the upper, middle, or lower part of the fuselage.
Many airplanes use wing struts to brace the wings against the fuselage. When used, wing struts are most
commonly of the semi-cantilever type, in which they are connected to the wing about half way between the
fuselage and the wingtip. An airplane having no wing struts is referred to as full cantilever.
The wings are made up of spars, ribs, and stringers. The ribs give the wing its shape, while skin, spars,
ribs, and stringers handle the stresses of flight, similar to the fuselage.
The tail section of the airplane is sometimes referred as its empennage. It is made up of the horizontal
stabilizer and the vertical stabilizer.
The landing gear supports the airplane when it is on the ground. Landing gear is described as being
retractable or fixed, depending on whether the gear may be raised and lowered by the pilot.
An airplane's landing gear will be made up of three wheels, with two main wheels near the wing and a
third will near the nose or tail. Airplane landing gear are referred to as tricycle or tailwheel,
depending on the location of this third wheel.
The powerplant of an airplane is its engine and propeller. The covering of the engine is called a
cowling or nacelle.