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Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology

Theory of Flight and Control


Prepared by: Mohammad Anuar Yusof

Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology

Theory of Flight and Control


Basic Airplane Nomenclature


An aircraft is a device that is used for, or is intended to be used for flight in the air. Major
categories of aircraft are airplane, rotorcraft, glider, and lighter-than-air vehicles such as airship
and balloons. (Refer figure 1)

Figure 1: Categories of Aircraft

In this topic we will only be discussing on the fixed-wing aircraft, which is the airplane. The main
design assemblies of an airplane are fuselage, wing and empennage, which consist of horizontal
stabilizer and vertical stabilizer. (See figure 2)

Figure 2: Main Assemblies of an Airplane


Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology

Theory of Flight and Control


The fuselage is the main structure or body of the aeroplane, to which the wings, tail, engine and
landing gear are attached. It is also designed to accommodate the space for the flight crew,
passengers, cargo and other equipment. Because of the tremendous loads that are imposed
upon the fuselage structure, it must have maximum strength and, as with all of the parts of an
aircraft, it must also have minimum weight.
There are 2 types of construction used in modern aircraft fuselages: the truss and the stressed-skin type.


Truss Fuselage Construction

By definition, a truss is a form of construction in which a number of members are joined to form
a rigid structure Pratt Truss Construction

Used by many early aircrafts in which wooden longerons served as the main lengthwise
structural members and were held at proper distance apart by wood struts. Each bay or space
between the struts was crossed by 2 piano wire stays whose tension was adjusted by brass
turnbuckles. (See figure 2)
The basic characteristic of this construction is that its struts carry only compressive loads, while
the stays carry only the tensile loads.

Figure 2: Pratt Truss Construction

Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology

Theory of Flight and Control Warren Truss Construction
When technology progressed to the extent that fuselages could be built of welded steel tubing,
the Warren truss construction became popular. In this type of truss type, the longerons are
separated by diagonal members that can carry both compressive and tensile loads. (See figure

Figure 3: Warren Truss Construction

The smooth aerodynamic shape required by an aircraft fuselage is provided for those using both
Pratt and Warren trusses by the addition of a non-load-carrying superstructure, and the entire
fuselage is covered with cloth fabric.

Stressed-Skin Fuselage Construction

There are three types of stressed-skin fuselage construction, namely the natural stressed-skin,
the monocoque structure and the semi-monocoque structure. Natural Stressed-Skin Structure

This skin does not require the angular shape that is necessary for a truss, but can be built with a
very clean, smooth, and aerodynamically efficient shape. All of the loads are carried by the
outside skin.
One of the best examples of a natural stressed--skin structure is the chicken egg. The fragile
shell of an egg can support an almost unbelievable load, when it is applied in the proper
direction, as long as the shell is not cracked.
The main limitation of a natural stressed--skin structure is that it cannot tolerate any dents or
deformation in its surface. This characteristic can be demonstrated with a thin aluminum
beverage can. When the can is free of dents, it will withstand a great amount of force applied to

Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology

Theory of Flight and Control

its ends, but if we put only a slight dent in its side, it can be crushed very easily from top or
bottom. Monocoque Structure
In this type of structure, the upper and lower skins are made of thin sheet aluminium alloy that
have been formed into compound curved shapes with a drop hammer or a hydropress. The
edges of both of these skins are bent to form a lip which gives the skin rigidity. These skins are
riveted to bulkheads/frames that have been pressed from thin sheet aluminium in a hydropress.
The sides of the fuselage between the top and bottom skins are made of flat sheet aluminium,
riveted to the skins and to the bulkheads/frames. (See figure 4)
This type of construction is economical and has sufficient strength for these relatively low-stress areas. It is very important that all repairs to monocoque structure restore the original
shape, rigidity and strength to any area that has been damaged

Figure 4: Monocoque Construction

. Semi-Monocoque Structure
This type of structures provides more strength by providing a substructure that consists of
frames and stringers and the skin is riveted to it. The frames and bulkheads are made of sheet
metal that has been formed in a press and the stringers are made of extruded aluminium alloy.
The bulkheads can also act as compartment walls. The stringers can have a bulb on one of their
sides to provide added strength needed to oppose bending loads. The longerons are also made
of extruded aluminium alloy, but are heavier than the stringers and assist the skin to carry more
of the structural loads in the fuselage. (See figure 5)

Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology

Theory of Flight and Control

Figure 5: Semi Monocoque Construction


The wings of an aircraft have a special aerodynamically efficient shape called an airfoil section
that allows them to force down the maximum amount of air as they move through it. The wing
provides for lift generation and control (aileron) as well as for fuel storage and possibly for the
accommodation of engine(s) and landing gear. The wings are designated left and right
corresponding to left and right side of the pilot when seated in the flight deck or cockpit. The
particular wing design for any given aircraft depends on a number of factors, such as size,
weight, use of the aircraft desired speed in flight and at landing, and desired rate of climb.


Full Cantilever Wing Design

The wings are built so that no external
bracing is needed. They are supported
internally by structural members assisted
by the skin of the aircraft. (See figure 6)


Semi-Cantilever Wing Design

Aircraft wings that use external struts or
wires to assist in supporting the wing
and carrying the aerodynamic and
landing loads. Wing support cables and
struts are generally made from steel.
Figure 6: Full Cantilever Wing
Many struts and their attach fittings have fairings to reduce drag. Short, nearly vertical supports
called jury struts are found on struts that attach to the wings a great distance from the fuselage.
This serves to subdue strut movement and oscillation caused by the air flowing around the strut
in flight. (See figure 7)

Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology

Theory of Flight and Control

Figure 7: Semi- Cantilever Wing


Wing Configuration
Airplanes with a single set of wings are referred to as monoplanes while those with two sets are
called biplanes. (See figure 8)


Figure 8: Wing Configuration

The monoplanes are further divided In 3 categories in relation to the rooting or attachment of
the wings to the fuselage.
Low wing configuration. The wing is rooted at the bottom part of the aircraft fuselage,
usually just below the pilots seat in GA aircraft. Good for touring and passenger aircraft, low
drag, easier to land due to higher ground effect but need fuel pumps. (See figure 9)

Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology

Theory of Flight and Control

Figure 9: Low wing attachment

Mid wing configuration. The rooting takes place approximately half way up the fuselage.
Nice very strong wing and fuselage binding for aerobatics. (See figure 10)

Figure10: Mid wing attachment

High wing configuration. Here the wings are rooted on top of the fuselage. Better ground
visibility, gravity fuel feed, but high drag. (See figure 11)

Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology

Theory of Flight and Control

Figure 11: High wing attachment



The empennage is also known as the tail section and consists of the rear fuselage section, the vertical
and horizontal stabilizers and movable control surfaces. The empennage with vertical tail surfaces is
joined to the rest of the fuselage in the main assembly jig. The stabilizers help to stabilize the aircraft
and the moveable control surface help to direct an aircraft during flight. The movable control surfaces
are usually a rudder located at the aft edge of the vertical stabilizer and an elevator located at the aft
edge the horizontal stabilizer. (See figure 12)

Figure 12: Empennage or Tail Section