Can you tell the difference between a propeller and a rudder, a cockpit and a cabin or a compass and a control wheel? Think you can identify the equipment and devices that help an airplane travel from here to there safely? Take our quiz to see how much you really know about planes!
In 1903, a pair of adventurous brothers named Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first self-propelled flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Their heavier-than-air plane traveled 120 feet in just around 12 seconds. While today's planes can take you all the way around the world in a single day, the basic technology involved in flight is the same; an engine creates speed, forcing air beneath the wings and generating the lift required to keep the plane in the sky. Just a little over a century after man first flew, nearly 2 million people travel by plane every day in the U.S. alone.
Watching planes fly might seem like magic, but it's actually a matter of simple science and technology. Of course, it takes a whole lot of equipment to keep the process running smoothly. Think you can name it all? Take this quiz to find out!
A typical commercial plane has one to two engines mounted on each wing. These powerful machines help the plane generate enough speed to overcome the weight of the aircraft and lift the vessel into the sky.
Think of the cockpit as the control center for the entire aircraft. Located at the front of the plane, it's where you'll find the control panel and steering devices, as well as the pilot and co-pilot.
The fuselage is the main part of the aircraft. It includes pretty much the entire vessel other than the wings and tail, and holds everything from crew to passengers and cargo.
A typical plane has a pair of wings extending parallel to the ground. They are sized carefully -- too long, and they create drag -- too short, and the plane won't able to fly. A standard 747 has a 211-foot wingspan on average.
Think of an airspeed indicator like the speedometer in your car. It tells the pilot how fast the plane is traveling in knots and miles per hour. Many are color-coded so that pilots can easily stay within a safe range of speed.
A propeller is a traditional piece of airplane equipment. Made from wood, metal or composites, it's situated on the nose of the plane, and is used to generate a wind force known as a slipstream. Propellers are generally found on planes that travel below 500 miles per hour.
Flaps are located on the trailing edges of the wings. The pilot can manipulate these strips of metal to increase the lift of the plane when needed -- like during takeoff.
The vertical stabilizer is located on the back of the plane, oriented perpendicular to the fuselage. It's used not only for directional stability, but also to control vertical drag.
A plane needs wheels to take off and land, but these wheels could impact lift and drag if they were left to hang below the plane all the time. Instead, the entire landing gear mechanism tucks up inside the plane after takeoff, and gets lowered back down again for landing.
An altimeter tells a pilot just how high he or she is flying. This cockpit instrument displays the vertical height above sea level. The measurement self-corrects for the effects of air pressure so the pilot has an accurate reading.
Slats are metal sections that open up on the leading edge of the plane's wings. They are similar to the flaps found on the trailing edge of the wings, but are used to manipulate the area of the wings to control forces like lift and drag.
No, a winglet isn't just a tiny wing. It is actually the term used to describe the tips of the wings themselves, which hinge upward at the ends. This reduces inefficiency and improves both safety and handling in the air.
Yes, just like cars, planes can also have spoilers, and they work sort of the same way. Located on the wings, the spoilers help to reduce lift, making them useful during descent and landing.
As you might imagine, a plane door has some pretty special features to help it stay safely in place in the air. Officially known as a plug door, the doors on a plane have a wedge shape that forces a tighter fit between the door and the surrounding plane body the higher the plane climbs.
Plane rudders are flaps located on the back of the vertical stabilizer, which extends out of the back of the fuselage and up into the sky. They can be used for turning, but are primarily used to control the yaw of the plane -- the direction that the nose is pointing.
Attitude indicators show the location of the plane as it relates to the ground and sky. They consist of a small gauge, with blue representing the sky and brown representing the ground, as well as a white horizon line. A tiny plane diagram lets the pilot know whether the plane is climbing, descending or level.
Ailerons are located on the trailing edges of the wings -- closer to the tips of the wings than to the main body of the vessel. They are similar to flaps, but are primarily used to control rolling and banking.
A horizontal stabilizer looks almost like a tiny set of wings extending out of the rear of the plane to either side of the fuselage. This equipment keeps the plane flying straight and stable, and is used to control a movement known as pitching.
A heading indicator is a gauge in the cockpit that provides directional information, similar to a compass. It uses a gyroscope technology, and may be powered by a vacuum or electricity.
If you think running low on fuel in your car is bad, imagine running out thousands of feet in the air! A fuel gauge lets pilots see if the plane is properly fueled, or alerts them that it's time for a fill up.
Think of the control wheel like the steering wheel in your car; this equipment is used to steer the plane, and many larger planes actually have two sets -- one for the pilot and one for the co-pilot.
A compass is an old-school tool used to determine which direction the plane is heading. While altitude and pressure can affect the accuracy of this tool, it's still useful if more modern tools aren't available.
Chocks are relatively simple devices made of wood, metal or composites. They are positioned behind the wheels to keep the plane in one spot during loading and unloading.
Anyone who has every tried to fly during an icy winter is likely pretty familiar with deicing vehicles. These machines remove snow, ice and frost so a plane can safely take off.
A vertical speed indicator is different than a plane old speedometer. It shows the rate of climb or descent in feet per minute. When the plane is flying perfectly level, the indicator will display a zero value.
Oxygen can get tricky at extreme elevations. If there is a problem on the plane, oxygen masks fall from the ceiling to allow passengers to breathe. And yes, you should always put on your mask first before helping others.
Stairs or a jetway are a natural way on and off a plane, but sometimes these exit devices aren't available. An evacuation slide allows passengers to quickly leave the aircraft and make it to safety.
The engines of a plane don't just hang directly from the engine. Instead, they are mounted on structures called pylons, which are installed on the wings themselves. A plane can have anywhere from two to four pylons on average depending on the number of engines.
No, it's not an elevator in the traditional sense. Instead, the elevator on an airplane is a pair of horizontal flaps located on the horizontal stabilizer at the rear of the plane. It's used to control pitch -- a motion related to whether the nose is pointing up, down or straight ahead.
Believe it or not, many planes have a separate engine hidden in the very rear of the fuselage. Known as the auxiliary power engine, it provides power to light, heat and cool the plane while it's on the ground -- and also serves as a redundant engine in case something goes wrong in the air.
Rudder pedals look like the pedals in a car, but serve a very different function. They control the rudders -- flaps on the back of the stabilizer -- which help to stabilize and control the direction of travel.
Airports are busy places, and it can be tricky for these giant machines to maneuver their way from the gate to the runway. Pushback tugs are utility vehicles that tow the plane away from the gate and get it ready to race down the runway.
When a plane is on the ground, it's essentially balancing on a small set of landing gear. That leaves a whole bunch of wings and fuselage hanging out in the air to stay balanced. An aircraft jack is a device that can be placed under a portion of the plane to hold it steady, either during down time or maintenance.
Turn coordinators are gyroscopic instruments powered by vacuum or electricity. They show a mini plane illustration, which indicates to the pilot whether the plane is dipping the wings in either direction, rolling or turning.
As you might imagine, the windshield on a plane is up against incredible forces. It must be equipped to handle bird strikes, ice, pressure and fog. To do this, plane manufacturers use three layers of chemically treated glass for maximum strength and safety.
An engine cowl is the metal cover that wraps around the engine. It not only protects the equipment from the elements, but is also integral to controlling cooling and air flow.
When you see the president strolling off Air Force One, those are rolling stairs he is walking down. They are also used on commercial planes when a jetway isn't available.
A jetway is a tunnel or covered walkway that allows passengers to enter the plane from the airport. This boarding bridge may also be called a jet bridge, gangway or sky bridge.