The Parts of an Airplane and it's Soaring History
The urge to fly, to soar above the fray, may be one of the most innate of human desires. The notion, however romanticized, was one as much of fantastic desire as practical application, and once the first plane was invented for military purpose the age of flight took hold in the imaginations of all involved. Air travel today is a multibillion dollar industry with military, business, and personal applications, and is showing no signs of landing any time soon.
As is the case with the typewriter, the light bulb, the computer, and other revolutionary products, history hardly remembers the failures. The defective, inconvenient, or over-complicated is forgotten when the successful product emerges. The same can be said for the airplane. Though it is difficult to determine the lengths he went to see his idea through to fruition, Leonardo Da Vinci produced in his time drawings of a “flying machine,” but it would take another 400 years, when the products to accomplish the feat of creating an airplane were available, for anyone to take up Da Vinci’s mantle.
During the years immediately preceding the invention of the airplane, it was not entirely clear which method of flight would be dominant in coming decades. Much attention was being paid to airships and hot air balloons as well as other devices, including the airplane.
Two men to whom airplane travel was the future were the brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright, who had patented their design for an airplane nine months before the flight. While there are other instances of manned, powered, heavier-than-air flights as much as fifty years before the Wright Brothers took flight, the Wright Brothers were the first people to meet the four criteria of accomplishing a manned, powered, heavier-than-air and controlled flight. Inauspicious in its beginnings (they flew at an altitude of 10 feet, a distance of 120 feet) this flight into the history books would be the foreword to one of the most influential chapters in the future of America and the world. Wilbur would later say, referring to da Vinci, “The fact that the great scientist believed in flying machines was the one thing that encouraged us to begin our studies”.
Airplane Parts – A Glossary
Of course, the history of the airplane is nothing without a cursory knowledge of the parts of one, and how these parts work together to produce lift. Of course, not every plane is the same, but these are some common parts you are likely to find on many of them.
Ailerons – The movable sections of an airplane’s wings found at the end of the wings used for controlled turns.
Cockpit – The area of the plane in which the controls can be found. This is where the pilot sits.
Elevator – Another movable part of the plane’s wings which can be manipulated to move the plane up and down.
Flaps – Another movable section of the wings, these are closest to the fuselage and are moved down to cause the plane to decelerate in air.
Fuselage – The part of the plane which holds passengers and the pilot.
Horizontal Stabilizer – Found at the rear of the plan, this part is used to balance the plane.
Landing Gear – The parts of the plane which support it and allow for control while on the ground.
Propeller – A rotating blade found at the front of the plane or the front of the wings. This device pulls the plan through the air.
Wings – Producing life and supporting the weight of the plane, the wings are perhaps the most integral part on the plane.
Throughout this history of airplanes, these vehicles have often become symbols for something far greater than travel. They have symbolized freedom, resilience, resolve, and ingenuity. Some planes have gone so far as to become part of Americana, and further, a part of world culture.
The Wright Flyer – The first airplane to meet the four criteria of manned flight. Powered, heavier-than-air, manned, and controlled.
The Spirit of St. Louis – Charles Lindburg made his famous flight across the Atlantic Ocean in this aircraft.
The Enola Gay – Not all planes are known for the uplifting stories of those who flew them, but the devastation of their cargo. Dropping one of the atomic bombs on Japan in 1945, the Enola Gay is one of those planes.
While there have been other planes, like the F-16 Fighting Falcon and B-52 bomber which have captured the attention of the world, few planes have engendered the emotional reactions of the planes listed above.
How the Airplane changed Warfare
Though the airplane would become a part of popular culture, ushering the “Jet Age” and being romanticized by many when flight was still something of a scientific marvel, the initial applications of planes, as is the case with many new technologies, was militaristic in nature.
Italy was the first country to apply air travel to military strategy, utilizing them in a reconnaissance role against Turkey. Of course this new military offense yielded new military defense, and before long other countries had developed aircraft to shoot down other aircraft, as well as anti-aircraft devices.
It is fair to say the airplane has saved more lives than any non-medical innovation throughout mankind. No longer would hundreds if not thousands of men be needed to gain information. Instead, one or two men could be sent to fly over an area and gain in minutes information that would have taken weeks if not months, and cost perhaps thousands of lives.
Airplanes are to the military infantry what the cavalry was in years past. Faster than infantry can contain with the ability to bring mass death and destruction with minimal risk to the pilot, airplanes are a vital part of any successful military. As technology advances, so to do aircraft, and with the recent technological revolution of the past twenty years, the airplane of the future may look drastically different than what we see today.
Written By: Edson Farnell | Email |