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Major Aircraft Components

​Almost all aircraft are designed and built with the same structural components.

  • Fuselage

  • Wings

  • Empennage

  • Landing gear

  • Powerplant


The fuselage is the main body and connecting point for all the other components. It is designed to hold the crew, passengers, and cargo.

The fuselage provides the structural connection for the wings and tail assembly.

Older aircraft designs use an open truss structure constructed of wood, steel, or aluminum tubing. The most popular types of fuselage structures used in today’s aircraft are the monocoque (French for “single shell”) and semi-monocoque, discussed in more detail at the end of this lesson.


The wings are also called airfoils; they are attached on either side of the fuselage and creates the lifting force of the airplane. The wings may be attached at either the bottom, top or middle of the fuselage also known as low-wing, high-wing or mid-wing.

The wings construction is made up of the skin, spars, ribs, and stringers. The fuel tanks are built into the wing and the primary and secondary flight controls are attached to the wings.

Flaps are attached at the tailing edge of the wing and are extended outward and downward to increase lift during takeoff and landings. There are multiple types of flaps used, but only four basic designs.


The empennage is the entire tail section of the airplane. It is made up of the vertical stabilizer which the rudder and trim tab is attached to, and the horizontal stabilizer which the elevator and its trim tab is attached.

Landing Gear

The landing gear is the main support for the airplane while it is parked or when the airplane is taxiing, takeoff and landing.

The landing gear maybe equipped with wheels, floats for water or skies for the snow.

There are two types of landing gear styles.

  • Conventional landing gear – also known as the tailwheel.

  • Tricycle gear – is when the third wheel is mounted at the nose, it called the nose wheel.

Tail Wheel Tricycle Gear

Further Classified as:

  • Fixed

  • Retractable

Lets break down the Nose Gear assembly:

During the preflight visual inspection of the aircraft, examine the main landing gear to ensure that there are no hydraulic leaks around the brake area. Along with inspecting the overall condition of all other components of the main landing gear assemblies.

The nose landing gear has components that differ from the main gear, such as:

  • Steering Linkages

  • Shimmy Damper

  • Torque Arms

  • Shock strut

Again, inspect the overall general condition of all other components of the nose gear for security and leaks.

Steering linkages

There are two linkages, one on each side. The steering linkages are connected to the Rudder pedals, which allows the pilot to turn the airplane left or right during ground operations (i.e. taxiing).

Shimmy Damper

On tricycle gear aircraft, a Shimmy Damper is attached to the nose gear which is used to alleviate oscillations during taxi and takeoff/landing roll.

Torque Arms

The Torque Arms (also known scissors) are connected to the inner and outer Shock Strut cylinders. The arms are to prevent the Shock strut from over extending.

Shock strut

On the shock strut inner cylinder is a chrome area. During the preflight inspection you want to make sure there is at least 2-3 inches (three to four fingers width) of chrome showing and look to see that are there are no leaks.


The powerplant is a combination of the engine and the propeller. The main function of the powerplant is to turn the propeller; it also supplies electrical power, heat and a vacuum for some instruments.

The engine is covered by a cowling or nacelle, which streamlines the airflow around the engine, and helps cool the cylinders on piston engines.


The subcomponents of aircraft include:

  • Airframe

  • Brakes

  • Electrical systems and Flight controls (discussed under the Aircraft Systems topic)

Airframe - is the most basic structure of the aircraft itself. The airframe is designed to hold and withstand all aerodynamic forces and stress imposed by the extra weight of fuel, crew, and payload the aircraft carries.

There are two types of fuselage structures used in today’s aircraft designs.

  • Monocoque – is a very strong construction, which uses the skin to support the load. This construction is not recommended, do to twisting and bending stresses are carried by the external skin.

  • Semimonocoque – use a structure to attach the skin too. It uses a combination of bulkheads, stringers, and formers to make the shape of the fuselage.

The semi-monocoque fuselage is designed with a main section to attach the wings along with firewalls built in, such as a firewall built between the engine and the flight deck, on small single engine aircraft.

Brakes - They consist of: Multiple pads (Called calipers) that are operated by an independent hydraulic system which squeeze them together on to the rotating disk (rotor). The rotor is turning the wheels, as a result when the pads are squeezing together, they are applying friction to the rotor allowing the wheels to slow down, and or stop turning.


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