Aviation for Beginners

Aviation is something everyone is familiar with,  but very few people know about the technical and historical details about a plane, except for people who are in some way connected to the aviation industry. Here, in this lesson, some basic knowledge has been shared about this topic.

by Sonalee Sarkar
1 year, 7 months ago

The history of aviation goes back to nearly 2000 years ago where the initiative to fly was taken in the form of kites and gliders. The first ever man-made object to fly was a kite: An Army General  used it to fly it over the enemy’s territory in order to calculate the tunnel length required to enter it by stealth. In the 15th century Leonardo da Vinci  designed several flights, but while he was able to develop these ideas, he couldn't construct them.

On 17th, December 1903, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright achieved the first powered, sustained, and controlled airplane flights in history. 4 flights were made; the first for 12 seconds, the last for 59 seconds.

On 21st, May, 1927 Charles Lindbergh lands his airplane the Spirit of St. Louis, at Le Bourget field in Paris after completing the first solo non-stop transatlantic flight. His total flight time from New York to Paris was 33 hours, 30 minutes and 29.8 seconds. 

On 21st, May 1932 Amelia Earhart became the first women to pilot an airplane solo across the Atlantic.

On 14th October, 1947 Captain.Charles.E. Chuck Yeager became the first man to fly an aircraft beyond the speed of the sound.

On 23, December, 1986 Captain Jeana Yeager and Dick Rutan were the first to complete a non-stop around the world flight without even stopping to re-fuel. The aircraft named Voyager took 9 days, 3 minutes and 44 seconds.  The Voyager was designed by Captain Dick Rutan’s brother Burt Rutan

In 1937, Jackie Cochran set a new women’s record for flying a plane by flying a Beeh D-17 “Staggerwing” biplane at 203.89 mph.

In 1964, Cochran set a new women speed record by flying in a Lockheed F-104G “Startfighter” at 1429.2 mph. Source: Jeppesen Guided Flight Discovery.

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An Aircraft is an engine driven machine that is used for flying in the air. The human activity surrounding aircrafts is called AVIATION. It is also called by other names like airplane, plane, aeroplane etc. 

These are machines capable of flying due to the aerodynamic forces (forces in motion relative to the air).Thus they are able to fly due to the support in the air. It is a structure that comprises of some major components like fuselage, wings, an empennage, landing gear and a powerplant. A diagram is given below showing the structure of an aircraft:

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This word has been derived from the French work called 'fusele’. It means spine shaped. Fuselage includes the cabin area that is where the passengers are seated, the cockpit area where the airplane controls are and also the cargo area that is where the passenger’s luggage has been kept. 

Thus if you look at the aircraft from the top, it will look like a spine shaped body. To identify the airline of the aircraft, we need to look at the front of the aircraft fuselage which can be then identified by the logo on it. There are two main wheels on the either side of the fuselage and one wheel in the front of the fuselage.

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The wings are a surface that provides aerodynamic (mechanics that deals with motion of air) force when it comes in interaction with the moving air. The wings are on each side of the fuselage. They are attached on the top, middle or lower part of the fuselage thus referring to them as high, mid and low wings respectively. The size, design and shape of the wing may vary from one manufacturer to another depending on the performance of the wing required for different airplanes. The following are three types of aircraft classified according to their type of wing:

A)    Monoplane: -These kind of plane have only one wing that is divided into two parts on either side of the fuselage.

B)    Biplane: -These kind of plane have two wings placed one above the other on either side of the fuselage.

C)    Triplane: -These kinds of planes have three wings placed one above the other on either side of the fuselage.

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The name for the tail section of the aircraft is called empennage. It consists of vertical and horizontal surfaces. It includes movable surfaces like the rudder, the elevator and one or more trim tabs. The empennage gives stability to the aircraft. The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder are often found in the empennage area. Let’s understand the moving surfaces better :

A)    Rudder - It’s a vertical flat piece found at the tail of the aircraft behind the vertical 
stabilizer that helps in the movement of the aircraft. During flight it helps in moving the plane’s nose left and right.  It acts similarly to the wheels of the car.

B)    Elevator - It is attached to the back of the horizontal stabilizer at the tail of the aircraft. It helps in moving the aircraft upwards and downwards. The higher the wing angle the lower the airplane speed, and the lower the wing angle the higher the airplane speed.

C)    Trim tabs -They are small movable portions attached to the rudder and/or the elevator. These are controlled from the cockpit. Trims often help the pilot to bring ease 
in his work. Trims help to maintain the altitude of the aircraft without the pilot having to constantly maintain the altitude from the cockpit.

D)   Stabilizers - In order to control the movement of the aircraft we have the horizontal stabilizer which is a horizontal piece as can be seen in the above diagram and a vertical 
piece called vertical stabilizer as seen above. The horizontal stabilizer prevents the nose of the plane from moving up and down while flying which is called a pitch. The vertical stabilizer prevents the nose of the plane from moving sideways while flying, which is called a yaw.

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The landing gear helps the airplane when it is parked, while taxing, i.e moving towards the path of take-off, while take off or during landing.  Landing gear consists of wheels. Airplanes are also equipped to handle landing on water. Those planes that have two wheels have conventional landing gear thus the planes are referred to as tailwheel airplanes. Those planes that have three wheels with the third located at the nose of the aircraft are called nosewheel and it is called tricycle landing gear. 

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The powerplant usually includes the engine and the propellers of the aircraft. The engine provides power to start the propellers of the aircraft. It also generates electricity. The engine is covered with a cowling. The cowling helps in moving the air around the engine and keeping the engine cool. The propellers are located in the front of the engine that transfers the rotating air around it into a forward force called thrust which helps in moving the aircraft in the air. Most of the common commercial aircrafts now use jet engines as their powerplant as they produce more thrust and require less maintenance. 

Propeller Engine: These engines use propellers for thrust (forward force) to fly the aircraft. The working principle of this engine is the same as the car engine. The plane's  engine drives the propellers of the plane just like the car's engine drives the wheels of the car.

Jet Engine: These type of engines were specially developed for the aircrafts. In this, the engine pulls the outside air and pushes it backwards with high pressure using fuel thus creating thrust (forward force). These are more powerful than the propeller engines.

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Ailerons help in the rotation movement of the aircraft. Like in a car, to take a right turn or left turn we need the help of the steering wheel, similarly in an aircraft the right and left movements are done with the help of ailerons. They are a small part attached to the outside of the wings. If the planes right wing ailerons are up and the left wing ailerons are down then the aircraft will move to the right, i.e in a clockwise direction. If the ring ailerons are down and left ailerons are up then the aircraft will move to the left, i.e in an anticlockwise direction. 
Source: http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/k12/airplane/alr.html
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They are at the edges of the wing in a fixed wing aircraft. They help in controlling the speed of the aircraft and also help in descending the angle of the plane during landing. During take-off the flaps are down in order to gain more thrust for take-off and while landing the flaps are up in order to reduce the speed of the aircraft and bring it to a safe stop.

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Single Engine Aircrafts: These aircrafts have only a single engine and are mostly
propeller engines. These aircrafts can be either land or sea versions.

Multi Engine Aircrafts: These aircrafts have more than one engine. They can have propeller engines as well as jet engines but most of the commercial planes today have jet engines. These aircraft are safer than single engine aircrafts, because if one engine fails, the pilot can rely on its second engine for a safe landing.

Aircraft’s can be classified in many other forms and ways, e.g. Rotorcraft, Gliders, Powered-Lift, Lighter than Air etc. Each of the above mentioned aircrafts have their own benefits and style of flying. 

Rotorcraft: They use vertical force for flying.

Gliders: They do not have engine. They just glide.  As they do not have engine they do not require fuel.

Airship & Air Balloon: Airship and Air Balloon are both in the lighter than air category of aircraft. All these types of aircrafts use lighter than air gases eg. helium, hydrogen etc to fly.



Air balloon:

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There are two ways of learning to ride a fractious horse: one to get on him and learn by actual practice how each motion and trick may be best met, the other is to sit on the fence and watch the beast a while, and then retire to the house and at leisure figure out the best way of overcoming his jumps and kicks. The later system is the safest, but the former, on the whole, turns out the larger proportion of good rides. It is very much the same in learning to ride a flying machine. If you are looking for perfect safety, you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds, but if you really wish to learn, you must mount a machine and become acquainted with its tricks by actual rituals. -WILBUR WRIGHT

Anyone needing any information/ lesson on aircraft instruments or any part of aircraft or even about how to become a pilot, its procedures, training facilities please do get back, it will be a pleasure to help you.

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1.  www.jeppesen.com

2. www.grc.nasa

3. www.iata.com

4. Pilots Handbook for Aeronautical Knowledge - FAA

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1. History of Aviation
2. What is an Aircraft?
3. Components of an aircraft: Fuselage
4. Components of an aircraft: Wings
5. Components of an aircraft: Empennage
6. Components of an aircraft: Landing Gear
7. Components of an aircraft: Powerplant
8. Components of an aircraft: Ailerons
9. Components of an aircraft: Flap Wings
10. Types of Aircrafts
11. Conclusion
12. References
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