Main Components of an Airplane

For anyone wanting to learn how to fly airplanes, it is important to know the main components of an aircraft. Obviously, this isn’t every single component but more of a general starting place for a new private pilot.


This is the body of the aircraft and includes the cabin & cockpit. All major components will be attached to the fuselage.

Engine & Propeller (Powerplant)

Propeller (prop) is attached directly to the front of the engine and is usually 2 or more blades that are twisted at specific angles. These blades are thicker at the base and will be tapered at the tips. Rotates Clockwise

The Engine is in front of the aircraft body (fuselage) and is the power source for the propeller. Airflow while in motion and from the propeller is the cooling source for the engine.

The engine is the power source for the accessories such as the alternator and magnetos.


Airplanes are commonly referred to as high wing if the wings are attached to the top of the fuselage or low wing if attached to the bottom the aircraft body. Wings are responsible for the aircraft lift.

Desirable characteristics of the high wing design:

  • Wings are above so it is easier to view the ground
  • High wings provide shade from the sun or protection from rain.
  • Greater ground clearance
  • Easy to access for pre-flight inspections

Landing Gear

On most small aircraft such as the Cessna 172, the landing gear consists of 3 wheels in which 2 are attached to the aircraft body (fuselage) and the third wheel in front that is just under the engine. Brakes on the Cessna 172 are attached to the 2 main gear and can be operated independently.

While on the ground, the landing gear supports the entire weight of the aircraft.

Main gear should be the last to touch the ground during takeoff and fist to touch ground on landing whereas the nose gear is designed to support the nose and engine.

Nose gear also is what helps to steer the aircraft during taxiing and is not only lighter, but does not have a brake system.

Tail (Empennage)

The tail is also know as the empennage which is a reference to a French word that means “to feather an arrow” so when you think of how the feathers of an affair help it to glide through the air, the same basic principal applies with regards to the tail of an airplane.

The vertical portion of the tail includes the Vertical stabilizer the fixed part of the tail designed to maintain stability and straight while in flight.

Attached to the tail is the rudder which acts as a steering device while in flight to move the nose of the aircraft left and right.

The horizontal portion of the tail includes the Horizontal Stabilizer which keeps the aircraft level and keeps the nose from drifting up or down.

Attached to the horizontal stabilizer is the elevator which controls the pitch of the airplane. The pitch is what makes the up or down movement of the nose.