July 2013 Issue

On Your Tail

The tail is there to balance forces created by the wing’s lift and to minimize yaw. How your tail is designed influences how it works and the airplane’s stability.

Of all the major components of a conventional airplane, the tail—empennage, if you prefer—may be the least understood. Yes, we generally know it’s there to help balance and stabilize the airplane’s attitude in flight, and to help control yaw and pitch, but that’s often the extent to which we paid attention in ground school. If we were paying more attention, we might have learned airplane tails come in many different shapes and sizes, and can be placed at either end of the airplane. They can be partially or totally omitted from some airplanes, while others might be considered to have more than one.

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