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Pilot Training 101

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We have come a long way since the plane was first invented in the early part of the 20th century. It was an incredible engineering feat then, and they have only gotten more impressive. As part of your pilot training, you should get to know your aircraft inside and out – but here are the basic parts to get you started.

The “Power Plant”
One of the most complex parts of air craft, the power plant includes the propeller and the engine, which generate the power. This part of the plane lifts it into the sky and also creates hydraulic and electric power to operate the plane. The engine is covered by a cowling or a nacelle. This covering streamlines the flow of air around the engine while also helping to cool it.

The Fuselage
This is the body of the plane, which holds passengers and cargo. It is a structural connection for the wings and tail. Older types of planes had an open truss structure made of wood, steel, or aluminum tubing, but today a single shell structure is used.

The Empennage
The empennage is the tail of the airplane. It includes the rudder and the elevator. The elevator enables the plane to move up and down, and the rudder steers the airplane from left to right. The empennage also has trim tabs, which reduce control pressures. They may be on the rudder, the ailerons, and/or the elevator.

The Wings
Wings may come in different designs, shapes, and sizes, and the number of wings on a plane can vary. However, a common design has large wings in the middle of the fuselage as well as two smaller ones at the empennage. The large wings support the airplane and are the main lifting surfaces. Wings are made up of spars, ribs and stringers, which are reinforced by trusses, I-beams, tubing, and skin.

The fuel tanks are also in the wings, and for very good reason. The enormous amount of fuel a plane needs makes up almost a third of the entire weight of the plane. Locating the fuel in the wings helps to keep the plane’s center of gravity where it is needed. It also works as a counter stress for the wings – without the added weight, the wings could break off during take off! And, the added weight makes the wings more rigid, reducing the “wing flutter,” which is the vibration of the wings caused by air flow.

The Landing Gear
The landing gear is important not just for landing, but for take off and taxiing. We are all used to the wheels we see on commercial airplanes, but some planes might have floats for water landings or skis so they can land on snow.

Planes with wheels have three of them; two main wheels and a third at either the front or rear of the plane. Gear with a rear mounted wheel is conventional landing gear and that with a nose wheel (the wheel on the nose) is referred to as a tricycle gear.

The Subcomponents
These include the brakes, flight controls, airframe, and electrical system. The airframe is designed to withstand aerodynamic forces as well as the weight of any cargo and the crew.

The electrical system generates, regulates, and distributes power throughout the plane. There are different power sources, such as AC generators, auxiliary power units, and external power. This power is used for essential systems, flight instruments, and cabin lighting for passenger comfort.

Most modern airplane brake systems are made of caliper pads, which are squeezed toward each other hydraulically. There is a rotor (rotating disk) between them, and the pads put pressure on the rotor, which turns with the wheels. This friction slows the wheels down and stops them from turning.

This is only a brief overview of all the parts it takes to make a plane work, but it is a start! Knowing as much as possible about how your plane works is an important part of becoming a pilot.

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