• Empennage of an aeroplane:

    Did you know there are many different types?

What is tail empennage of an aircraft

Tail empennage is the group of control panels or stabilisers that are at the rear end of an aeroplane.

If the tail of an aeroplane is generically, all of its end part, when we talk about “empennage” we refer to the structure formed by the stabilisation elements, above all, depth planes and drifts.

And why ‘empennage’?

The origin of the word is rather poetic, in our opinion.

It’s from the french «empenner». Empenner is the art of putting feathers on the rear end of arrows. And don’t aeroplanes look like giant spears?

To find out more about feathers and in what way aeroplanes are similar to birds, don’t miss the linked post.

Structure of tail empennage of aeroplanes

As a general rule, we can say all tail empennages are formed by a cone and two control surfaces.

The cone’s function is easy: it is the final part of the fuselage therefore its purpose is to be aerodynamic.

With regards to control surfaces, we can distinguish between the vertical stabiliser with the tail rudder and the horizontal stabiliser, where we find ailerons.

But wait, don’t know what these surfaces are? Following is an explanation.

Vertical stabiliser

As its name suggests, the vertical stabiliser is the part of the tail empennage that protrudes upwards. In it, we find the rudder.

The rudder’s purpose is to aid in controlling the aircraft with respect to its vertical axis.

This movement is what is known as yaw and its use is fundamental in windy weather conditions or in order to achieve coordinated turns.

Horizontal stabiliser

In the horizontal stabiliser we find the elevators which are in charge of controlling the aeroplane with respect to its lateral axis. That is, the elevators of the empennage’s horizontal stabiliser control the pitching of the aeroplane.

The elevators can be found in the rear part of the fuselage, as they are the furthermost from the lateral axis, making them much more effective.

Empennage types

The position of the vertical stabiliser with respect to the fuselage is what establishes the different types of tail empennage. They’re neither better nor worse than each other; everything depends on the aeroplane’s characteristics.

For example, our Diamonds has a T empennage, so the part where vertical and horizontal stabilisers come together form a sort of T shape. Cirrus, on the other hand, have a low tail.

How are control surfaces dealt with in tail empennage

You are probably asking yourself how these surfaces are managed. It’s easy.

The direction rudder is connected to pilots’ pedals; whilst elevators are connected to the control column.

The movements made by pilots are detected by a computer onboard controlling the hydraulic system and making surfaces move.

Watch out, though, as this explanation is only valid for commercial aeroplanes.

Light aeroplanes are directly operated by pilots´ effort, thanks to some cables that join control surfaces to the control column and pedals.

Continue learning about the parts of an aeroplane in our blog

Now you know a little about tail empennage, how about broadening your knowledge on the rest of the parts that make up an aeroplane?

You can navigate through all our interesting posts we have already published or take a look at these ones about landing gear; the mysterious black box of an aircraft, which isn’t black but orange; or about the livery on aeroplanes, the curious uniform of colours the giants of the skies dress up in.

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