A fixed-wing aircraft is a kind of aircraft. An aircraft is a machine that can fly, but is heavier than air. Fixed-wing aircraft are sometimes called just planes. All fixed-wing aircraft have wings. Gliders are fixed-wing aircraft that do not have engines.
History[change | change source]
A steam-powered unmanned fixed-wing aircraft, that weighed 9 lbs., was built by John Stringfellow, in Chard, Somerset, England in 1848. It could fly by itself without needing to be dropped from high up. There were gliders before this, but they had to fly by being pushed off a building or hill.
Modern day[change | change source]
Today, fixed-wing aircraft fly between many cities all over the world, bringing people and cargo. Big cities usually have an international airport, which is the place where fixed-wing aircraft can land and take off safely. Some large cities like New York City and London have more than one airport. Two large makers of fixed-wing aircraft are Airbus and Boeing.
Advances in technology have made fixed-wing aircraft more efficient in recent years. Things like winglets and more efficient turbofans have helped to do this.
Parts[change | change source]
Most fixed-wing aircraft have certain parts in common.
Wings[change | change source]
The wings are the most important part because they are what makes the plane fly. The wings create a force called lift that goes against gravity, which makes the plane get off the ground. When air flows around the wing (which happens when the plane moves forward) the wing pushes air down, which in turn pushes the plane up. Lift can also be explained using Bernoulli's principle; since wings are designed so that air goes faster on the top of the wing than on the bottom, the higher pressure on the bottom will push the plane up.
Some wings have panels on the back called flaps. Flaps can be extended to make the wing bigger. This makes the wing make more lift, but also more drag. This lets the plane fly slower without stalling, so flaps are often used during takeoff and landing.
Tail[change | change source]
The tail (also called the vertical stabilizer) is a large flat panel normally at the back of the plane. This helps the plane fly straight. Some planes have more than one tail, like the Antonov An-225. Some planes also have no tail, like the flying wing design.
Engines[change | change source]
Engines push the plane forward. This makes sure that air goes over the wings, which makes the plane fly. Some fixed-wing aircraft, such as gliders, don't have engines. Instead they use gravity to give them forward speed.
Fuselage[change | change source]
The fuselage is the part of the plane that people go inside. It is normally shaped like a cylinder. It might have windows or doors.
Landing Gear[change | change source]
The landing gear is what supports the plane on the ground. It can be wheels if the plane lands on the ground, or skids if the plane lands in the water. Many planes can retract (bring inside the fuselage) their landing gear to make less drag.
Uses[change | change source]
Uses in War[change | change source]
The first aircraft for war bombing was used in Libya in 1911 by Italy against the Ottoman Empire. Some fixed-wing aircraft are used by air forces to defend countries. These fixed-wing aircraft may use guns or missiles for combat with other aircraft, or they may drop bombs on ground targets.
Airplanes are also used by the military to see many things on the ground easily. This is called surveillance or reconnaissance. Often, fixed-wing aircraft will take photographs as well, which can be used for military planning later.
Transportation[change | change source]
Fixed-wing aircraft have long been used for moving people from place to place, for things like holidays.
Problems[change | change source]
Sometimes, people are scared to fly. They may think that the plane could crash, or be hijacked by terrorists. However, statistics show that riding in a plane is safer than driving in a car. The September 11, 2001 attacks helped spread this fear of flying.
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References[change | change source]