Airplane Empennage

Aeronautical Terms Defined
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The airplane empennage is a crucial component of an aircraft, responsible for providing stability and control during flight. It consists of several key elements, including the stabilizer, rudder, elevators, and other control surfaces.

The word "empennage" comes from the French word "empenner," which means "to feather an arrow." This term was later adopted to refer to the tail assembly of an aircraft due to the similarity in shape and function between the feathers on an arrow and the control surfaces on an aircraft's tail. The word "empennage" has since become a standard term in aviation terminology, used to describe the tail assembly of an aircraft and its various components.

Horizontal Stabilizer and Elevator

The stabilizer, also known as the horizontal stabilizer, is a flat, horizontal surface that runs across the tail of the aircraft. It helps to provide longitudinal stability, meaning it helps to prevent the aircraft from pitching up or down too rapidly. The stabilizer is typically mounted parallel to the ground and is equipped with a movable control surface called the elevator. The pilot can control the position of the elevator to adjust the pitch of the aircraft and climb or descend.

The elevators are horizontal control surfaces that are attached to the trailing edge of the stabilizer. They work in conjunction with the rudder to control the aircraft's pitch and yaw. The elevators move up or down in response to the pilot's control inputs, which cause the aircraft's nose to pitch up or down.

Vertical Stabilizer and Rudder

The rudder is a vertical control surface located at the rear of the aircraft, hinged to the vertical stabilizer. It is used to control the yaw of the aircraft, meaning it helps the pilot to steer the aircraft left or right. The rudder is typically mounted perpendicular to the stabilizer and is actuated by the pilot using foot pedals.


In addition to the stabilizer, rudder, and elevators, some aircraft also feature other control surfaces, such as trim tabs, that help the pilot to maintain control of the aircraft more easily. The design and configuration of these control surfaces can vary greatly between different types of aircraft, but their overall function remains the same: to help the pilot maintain stability and control during flight.



Posted February 4, 2023