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An aircraft is a
vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine A machine is any physical system with ordered structural and functional properties. It may represent human-made or naturally occurring device molecular machine A molecular machine, nanite, or ...

vehicle
that is able to
fly Flies are insect Insects or Insecta (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Lat ...

fly
by gaining support from the
air File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. Lower pie represents trace gases that together compose about 0.043391% of the atmosphere (0.04402961% at April 2019 concentration ). Number ...
. It counters the force of gravity by using either
static lift
static lift
or by using the dynamic lift of an
airfoil An airfoil (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, American Englis ...

airfoil
, or in a few cases the downward thrust from
jet engine A jet engine is a type of reaction engine A reaction engine is an engine or motor that produces thrust by expelling reaction mass, in accordance with Newton's third law of motion. This law of motion is most commonly paraphrased as: "For ...

jet engine
s. Common examples of aircraft include
airplane An airplane or aeroplane (informally plane) is a fixed-wing aircraft that is propelled forward by thrust from a jet engine, Propeller (aircraft), propeller, or rocket engine. Airplanes come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and wing configurati ...

airplane
s,
helicopter A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which Lift (force), lift and thrust are supplied by horizontally spinning Helicopter rotor, rotors. This allows the helicopter to VTOL, take off and land vertically, to hover (helicopter), hover, and to ...

helicopter
s,
airship An airship, dirigible balloon or blimp is a type of aerostat An aerostat (From greek language, Greek ἀήρ ''aer'' (air) + στατός ''statos'' (standing) through French) is a lighter than air aircraft that gains its lift through the ...

airship
s (including
blimp A blimp, or non-rigid airship, is an airship An airship, dirigible balloon or blimp is a type of aerostat An aerostat (From greek language, Greek ἀήρ ''aer'' (air) + στατός ''statos'' (standing) through French) is a lighter t ...

blimp
s),
gliders Glider may refer to: Aircraft and transport Aircraft * Glider (aircraft), heavier-than-air aircraft primarily intended for unpowered flight ** Glider (sailplane), a rigid-winged glider aircraft with an undercarriage, used in the sport of gliding * ...
, paramotors and
hot air balloon A hot-air balloon is a lighter-than-air A lifting gas or lighter than air gas is a gas that has a lower density than normal atmospheric gases and rises above them as a result. It is required for aerostats to create buoyancy, particularly in ...
s. The human activity that surrounds aircraft is called ''
aviation Aviation is the activities surrounding mechanical flight and the aircraft industry. ''Aircraft'' includes airplane, fixed-wing and helicopter, rotary-wing types, morphable wings, wing-less lifting bodies, as well as aerostat, lighter-than-air ...
''. The science of aviation, including designing and building aircraft, is called ''
aeronautics Aeronautics is the science or art involved with the study, design process, design, and manufacturing of air flight–capable machines, and the techniques of operating aircraft and rockets within the atmosphere. The British Royal Aeronautical So ...

aeronautics
.'' Crewed aircraft are flown by an onboard
pilot An aircraft pilot or aviator is a person who controls the flight of an aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle or machine that is able to fly Flies are insect Insects or Insecta (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical lan ...
, but
unmanned aerial vehicle , a hunter-killer surveillance UAV , rotorcraft A rotorcraft or rotary-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to flight, fly by gaining support from the Atmosphere of Earth, air. It counters th ...

unmanned aerial vehicle
s may be remotely controlled or self-controlled by onboard
computers A computer is a machine that can be programmed to Execution (computing), carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic sets of operations known as Computer program, programs. These p ...

computers
. Aircraft may be classified by different criteria, such as lift type,
aircraft propulsion A powered aircraft is an aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to flight, fly by gaining support from the Atmosphere of Earth, air. It counters the force of gravity by using either Buoyancy, static lift or by using the Lift (force) ...
, usage and others.


History

Flying model craft and stories of manned
flight Flight or flying is the process by which an object (physics), object motion (physics), moves through a space without contacting any planetary surface, either within an atmosphere (i.e. air flight or aviation) or through the vacuum of outer space ...

flight
go back many centuries; however, the first manned ascent — and safe descent — in modern times took place by larger hot-air balloons developed in the 18th century. Each of the two
World Wars A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newsp ...
led to great technical advances. Consequently, the history of aircraft can be divided into five eras: * Pioneers of flight, from the earliest experiments to 1914. *
First World War World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainmen ...
, 1914 to 1918. *
Aviation between the World Wars Sometimes dubbed the Golden Age of Aviation, the period in the history of aviation between the end of World War I World War I or the First World War, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 2 ...
, 1918 to 1939. *
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
, 1939 to 1945. * Postwar era, also called the
Jet Age #REDIRECT Jet Age #REDIRECT Jet Age The Jet Age is a period in the history of aviation defined by the advent of aircraft powered by turbine A turbine ( or ) (from the Greek , ''tyrbē'', or Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language bel ...
, 1945 to the present day.


Methods of lift


Lighter than air – aerostats

Aerostat An aerostat (From Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appr ...
s use
buoyancy Buoyancy (), or upthrust, is an upward exerted by a that opposes the of a partially or fully immersed object. In a column of fluid, pressure increases with depth as a result of the weight of the overlying fluid. Thus the pressure at the bo ...

buoyancy
to float in the air in much the same way that ships float on the water. They are characterized by one or more large cells or canopies, filled with a relatively low-density gas such as
helium Helium (from el, ἥλιος, helios Helios; Homeric Greek: ), Latinized as Helius; Hyperion and Phaethon are also the names of his father and son respectively. often given the epithets Hyperion ("the one above") and Phaethon ("the shining" ...

helium
,
hydrogen Hydrogen is the chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol H and atomic number 1. Hydrogen is the lightest element. At standard temperature and pressure, standard conditions hydrogen is a gas of diatomic molecules having the che ...

hydrogen
, or hot air, which is less dense than the surrounding air. When the weight of this is added to the weight of the aircraft structure, it adds up to the same weight as the air that the craft displaces. Small hot-air balloons, called
sky lantern A sky lantern (), also known as Kǒngmíng lantern (simplified Chinese: 孔明灯; traditional Chinese: 孔明燈), or Chinese lantern, is a small hot air balloon A hot-air balloon is a lighter-than-air aircraft consisting of a bag, calle ...

sky lantern
s, were first invented in ancient China prior to the 3rd century BC and used primarily in cultural celebrations, and were only the second type of aircraft to fly, the first being
kite A kite is a tether A tether is a cord, fixture, or flexible attachment that characteristically anchors something movable to something fixed; it also maybe used to connect two movable objects, such as an item being towing, towed by its tow. ...

kite
s, which were first invented in ancient China over two thousand years ago. (See
Han Dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han Dynasty
) A
balloon A balloon is a flexible bag that can be inflated with a gas, such as helium Helium (from el, ἥλιος, helios Helios; Homeric Greek: ), Latinized as Helius; Hyperion and Phaethon are also the names of his father and son respectiv ...
was originally any aerostat, while the term
airship An airship, dirigible balloon or blimp is a type of aerostat An aerostat (From greek language, Greek ἀήρ ''aer'' (air) + στατός ''statos'' (standing) through French) is a lighter than air aircraft that gains its lift through the ...

airship
was used for large, powered aircraft designs — usually fixed-wing. In 1919
Frederick Handley Page Sir Frederick Handley Page, CBE The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the ...
was reported as referring to "ships of the air," with smaller passenger types as "Air yachts." In the 1930s, large intercontinental flying boats were also sometimes referred to as "ships of the air" or "flying-ships". — though none had yet been built. The advent of powered balloons, called dirigible balloons, and later of rigid hulls allowing a great increase in size, began to change the way these words were used. Huge powered aerostats, characterized by a rigid outer framework and separate aerodynamic skin surrounding the gas bags, were produced, the
Zeppelin A Zeppelin is a type of rigid airship 250px, Construction of USS Shenandoah (ZR-1), USS ''Shenandoah'' (ZR-1), 1923, showing the framework of a rigid airship. A rigid airship is a type of airship (or dirigible) in which the Aerostat, envelop ...

Zeppelin
s being the largest and most famous. There were still no fixed-wing aircraft or non-rigid balloons large enough to be called airships, so "airship" came to be synonymous with these aircraft. Then several accidents, such as the
Hindenburg disaster The ''Hindenburg'' disaster was an airship accident that occurred on May 6, 1937, in Manchester Township, New Jersey, United States. The German passenger airship LZ 129 ''Hindenburg'' caught fire and was destroyed during its attempt to dock wi ...

Hindenburg disaster
in 1937, led to the demise of these airships. Nowadays a "balloon" is an unpowered aerostat and an "airship" is a powered one. A powered, steerable aerostat is called a ''
dirigible An airship, dirigible balloon or blimp is a type of aerostat or lighter-than-air aircraft that can navigate through the air under its own power. Aerostats gain their lift from a lifting gas that is less dense than the surrounding air. In ear ...

dirigible
''. Sometimes this term is applied only to non-rigid balloons, and sometimes ''dirigible balloon'' is regarded as the definition of an airship (which may then be rigid or non-rigid). Non-rigid dirigibles are characterized by a moderately aerodynamic gasbag with stabilizing fins at the back. These soon became known as ''
blimp A blimp, or non-rigid airship, is an airship An airship, dirigible balloon or blimp is a type of aerostat An aerostat (From greek language, Greek ἀήρ ''aer'' (air) + στατός ''statos'' (standing) through French) is a lighter t ...

blimp
s''. During
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
, this shape was widely adopted for tethered balloons; in windy weather, this both reduces the strain on the tether and stabilizes the balloon. The nickname ''blimp'' was adopted along with the shape. In modern times, any small dirigible or airship is called a blimp, though a blimp may be unpowered as well as powered.


Heavier-than-air – aerodynes

Heavier-than-air aircraft, such as
airplane An airplane or aeroplane (informally plane) is a fixed-wing aircraft that is propelled forward by thrust from a jet engine, Propeller (aircraft), propeller, or rocket engine. Airplanes come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and wing configurati ...

airplane
s, must find some way to push air or gas downwards so that a reaction occurs (by Newton's laws of motion) to push the aircraft upwards. This dynamic movement through the air is the origin of the term ''aerodyne''. There are two ways to produce dynamic upthrust —
aerodynamic lift A fluid In physics, a fluid is a substance that continually Deformation (mechanics), deforms (flows) under an applied shear stress, or external force. Fluids are a Phase (matter), phase of matter and include liquids, Gas, gases and Plasma (p ...
, and
powered lift A powered lift aircraft takes offs and lands vertically under engine power but uses a fixed wing for horizontal flight. Like helicopter A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by horizontally-spinning ...
in the form of engine thrust. Aerodynamic lift involving
wing A wing is a type of fin A fin is a thin component or appendage attached to a larger body or structure. Fins typically function as foils that produce lift or thrust Thrust is a reaction (physics), reaction force (physics), force describ ...

wing
s is the most common, with
fixed-wing aircraft A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machine Early flying machines include all forms of aircraft studied or constructed before the development of the modern aeroplane by 1910. The story of modern flight begins more than a ce ...
being kept in the air by the forward movement of wings, and
rotorcraft A rotorcraft or rotary-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle or machine that is able to fly Flies are insect Insects or Insecta (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to ...
by spinning wing-shaped rotors sometimes called rotary wings. A wing is a flat, horizontal surface, usually shaped in cross-section as an
aerofoil An airfoil (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, American English ...

aerofoil
. To fly, air must flow over the wing and generate
lift Lift or LIFT may refer to: Physical devices * Elevator, or lift, a device used for raising and lowering people or goods ** Rack lift, a type of elevator ** Ski lift, an aerial or surface lift for uphill transport ** Space elevator, a hypothetical ...
. A ''flexible wing'' is a wing made of fabric or thin sheet material, often stretched over a rigid frame. A ''
kite A kite is a tether A tether is a cord, fixture, or flexible attachment that characteristically anchors something movable to something fixed; it also maybe used to connect two movable objects, such as an item being towing, towed by its tow. ...

kite
'' is tethered to the ground and relies on the speed of the wind over its wings, which may be flexible or rigid, fixed, or rotary. With powered lift, the aircraft directs its engine thrust
vertically
vertically
downward.
V/STOL A vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) aircraft is an airplane able to takeoff and landing, take-off or land vertically or on short runways. VTOL, Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft are a subset of V/STOL craft that do ...
aircraft, such as the
Harrier Jump Jet The Harrier, informally referred to as the Harrier Jump Jet, is a family of jet-powered attack aircraft An attack aircraft, strike aircraft, or attack bomber is a tactical military aircraft that has a primary role of carrying out airstrikes ...
and Lockheed Martin F-35B take off and land vertically using powered lift and transfer to aerodynamic lift in steady flight. A pure
rocket A rocket (from it, rocchetto, , bobbin/spool) is a spacecraft A spacecraft is a vehicle or machine designed to fly in outer space. A type of artificial satellite alt=, A full-size model of the Earth observation satellite ERS 2 ...

rocket
is not usually regarded as an aerodyne because it does not depend on the air for its lift (and can even fly into space); however, many aerodynamic lift vehicles have been powered or assisted by rocket motors. Rocket-powered missiles that obtain aerodynamic lift at very high speed due to airflow over their bodies are a marginal case.


Fixed-wing

The forerunner of the fixed-wing aircraft is the
kite A kite is a tether A tether is a cord, fixture, or flexible attachment that characteristically anchors something movable to something fixed; it also maybe used to connect two movable objects, such as an item being towing, towed by its tow. ...

kite
. Whereas a fixed-wing aircraft relies on its forward speed to create airflow over the wings, a kite is tethered to the ground and relies on the
wind Wind is the natural movement of air or other gases relative to a planet's surface. Wind occurs on a range of scales, from thunderstorm A thunderstorm, also known as an electrical storm or a lightning storm, is a storm characterized by th ...

wind
blowing over its wings to provide lift. Kites were the first kind of aircraft to fly and were invented in China around 500 BC. Much aerodynamic research was done with kites before test aircraft,
wind tunnel Wind tunnels are large tubes with air blowing through them which are used to replicate the interaction between air and an object flying through the air or moving along the ground. Researchers use wind tunnels to learn more about how an aircraft ...

wind tunnel
s, and computer modelling programs became available. The first heavier-than-air craft capable of controlled free-flight were
gliders Glider may refer to: Aircraft and transport Aircraft * Glider (aircraft), heavier-than-air aircraft primarily intended for unpowered flight ** Glider (sailplane), a rigid-winged glider aircraft with an undercarriage, used in the sport of gliding * ...
. A glider designed by
George Cayley Sir George Cayley, 6th Baronet (27 December 1773 – 15 December 1857) was an English engineer Engineers, as practitioners of engineering, are Professional, professionals who Invention, invent, design, analyze, build and test Machine, machi ...

George Cayley
carried out the first true manned, controlled flight in 1853. The practical, powered, fixed-wing aircraft (the
airplane An airplane or aeroplane (informally plane) is a fixed-wing aircraft that is propelled forward by thrust from a jet engine, Propeller (aircraft), propeller, or rocket engine. Airplanes come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and wing configurati ...

airplane
or aeroplane) was invented by
Wilbur and Orville Wright
Wilbur and Orville Wright
. Besides the method of
propulsion Propulsion is the action or process of pushing or pulling to drive an object forward. The term is derived from two Latin words: '' pro'', meaning'' before'' or ''forward''; and '' pellere'', meaning ''to drive''. A propulsion system consists of ...
, fixed-wing aircraft are in general characterized by their
wing configuration The wing configuration of a fixed-wing aircraft (including both glider (aircraft), gliders and powered aeroplanes) is its arrangement of lifting and related surfaces. Aircraft designs are often classified by their wing configuration. For example ...
. The most important wing characteristics are: * Number of wings —
monoplane A monoplane is a fixed-wing aircraft A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air Aircraft, flying machine, such as an airplane, which is capable of flight using wings that generate Lift (force), lift caused by the aircraft's forward airspee ...
,
biplane A biplane is a fixed-wing aircraft A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machine Early flying machines include all forms of aircraft studied or constructed before the development of the modern aeroplane by 1910. The story ...

biplane
, etc. * Wing support — Braced or cantilever, rigid, or flexible. * Wing planform — including
aspect ratio The aspect ratio of a geometric Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; '' geo-'' "earth", '' -metron'' "measurement") is, with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathematics. It is concerned with properties of space that are ...

aspect ratio
, angle of sweep, and any variations along the span (including the important class of
delta wing A delta wing is a wing A wing is a type of fin A fin is a thin component or appendage attached to a larger body or structure. Fins typically function as foils that produce lift or thrust Thrust is a reaction (physics), reaction force ...
s). * Location of the horizontal stabilizer, if any. *
Dihedral angle A dihedral angle is the angle between two intersecting planes or half-planes. In chemistry Chemistry is the science, scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter. It is a natural science that covers the Chemical element, ele ...
 — positive, zero, or negative (anhedral). A variable geometry aircraft can change its wing configuration during flight. A ''
flying wing A flying wing is a tailless fixed-wing aircraft A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machine Early flying machines include all forms of aircraft studied or constructed before the development of the modern aeroplane by 1 ...

flying wing
'' has no fuselage, though it may have small blisters or pods. The opposite of this is a ''
lifting body A lifting body is a fixed-wing aircraft or spacecraft configuration in which the body itself produces lift. In contrast to a flying wing, which is a wing with minimal or no conventional fuselage In aeronautics, the fuselage (; from the Fr ...
'', which has no wings, though it may have small stabilizing and control surfaces. Wing-in-ground-effect vehicles are not considered aircraft. They "fly" efficiently close to the surface of the ground or water, like conventional aircraft during takeoff. An example is the Russian ekranoplan (nicknamed the "Caspian Sea Monster"). Man-powered aircraft also rely on
ground effect Ground effect may refer to: * Ground effect (aerodynamics), the increased lift and decreased aerodynamic drag of a wing close to a fixed surface * Ground effect (cars), an effect that creates downforce, primarily in racing cars * Ground effect vehi ...
to remain airborne with minimal pilot power, but this is only because they are so underpowered—in fact, the airframe is capable of flying higher.


Rotorcraft

Rotorcraft, or rotary-wing aircraft, use a spinning rotor with aerofoil section blades (a ''rotary wing'') to provide lift. Types include
helicopter A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which Lift (force), lift and thrust are supplied by horizontally spinning Helicopter rotor, rotors. This allows the helicopter to VTOL, take off and land vertically, to hover (helicopter), hover, and to ...

helicopter
s,
autogyro An autogyro (from Greek and , "self-turning"), also known as a gyroplane or gyrocopter, is a type of rotorcraft that uses an unpowered rotor in free autorotation to develop lift. Forward thrust is provided independently, by an engine-driven ...
s, and various hybrids such as
gyrodyne A gyrodyne is a type of VTOL A vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft is one that can hover (helicopter), hover, takeoff and landing, take off and land vertically without relying on a runway. This classification can include a variety of ...
s and compound rotorcraft. ''
Helicopter A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which Lift (force), lift and thrust are supplied by horizontally spinning Helicopter rotor, rotors. This allows the helicopter to VTOL, take off and land vertically, to hover (helicopter), hover, and to ...

Helicopter
s'' have a rotor turned by an engine-driven shaft. The rotor pushes air downward to create lift. By tilting the rotor forward, the downward flow is tilted backward, producing thrust for forward flight. Some helicopters have more than one rotor and a few have rotors turned by gas jets at the tips. ''
Autogyro An autogyro (from Greek and , "self-turning"), also known as a gyroplane or gyrocopter, is a type of rotorcraft that uses an unpowered rotor in free autorotation to develop lift. Forward thrust is provided independently, by an engine-driven ...
s'' have unpowered rotors, with a separate power plant to provide thrust. The rotor is tilted backward. As the autogyro moves forward, air blows upward across the rotor, making it spin. This spinning increases the speed of airflow over the rotor, to provide lift.
Rotor kite A rotor kite or gyrokite is an unpowered, rotary-wing aircraft A rotorcraft or rotary-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to flight, fly by gaining support from the Atmosphere of Earth, air. ...
s are unpowered autogyros, which are towed to give them forward speed or tethered to a static anchor in high-wind for kited flight. ''
Cyclogyro Image:Cyclogyro.svg, Concept drawing of a cyclogyro. The cyclogyro, or cyclocopter, is an aircraft configuration that uses a horizontal-axis cyclorotor as a rotor wing to provide lift and sometimes also propulsion and control. In principle, the cycl ...

Cyclogyro
s'' rotate their wings about a horizontal axis. ''Compound rotorcraft'' have wings that provide some or all of the lift in forward flight. They are nowadays classified as ''
powered lift A powered lift aircraft takes offs and lands vertically under engine power but uses a fixed wing for horizontal flight. Like helicopter A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by horizontally-spinning ...
'' types and not as rotorcraft. ''
Tiltrotor A tiltrotor is an aircraft which generates lift (force), lift and thrust, propulsion by way of one or more powered Helicopter rotor, rotors (sometimes called ''proprotors'') mounted on rotating shaft (mechanical engineering), shafts or nacelles usu ...
'' aircraft (such as the
Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is an American multi-mission, with both vertical takeoff and landing () and short takeoff and landing () capabilities. It is designed to combine the functionality of a conventional with the long-range, high-speed ...
),
tiltwing A tiltwing aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle or machine that is able to fly Flies are insect Insects or Insecta (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-Eu ...
,
tail-sitter Image:Convair XYF-1 Pogo.jpg, The Convair Pogo was one tailsitter design. A tail-sitter, or tailsitter, is a type of VTOL aircraft that takes off and lands on its empennage, tail, then tilts horizontally for forward flight. Originating in the 1920s ...
, and coleopter aircraft have their rotors/
propellers . A propeller is a device with a rotating hub and radiating blades that are set at a pitch to form a helical spiral, that, when rotated, exerts linear thrust Thrust is a reaction (physics), reaction force (physics), force described quantitat ...
horizontal for vertical flight and vertical for forward flight.


Other methods of lift

* A ''
lifting body A lifting body is a fixed-wing aircraft or spacecraft configuration in which the body itself produces lift. In contrast to a flying wing, which is a wing with minimal or no conventional fuselage In aeronautics, the fuselage (; from the Fr ...
'' is an aircraft body shaped to produce lift. If there are any wings, they are too small to provide significant lift and are used only for stability and control. Lifting bodies are not efficient: they suffer from high drag, and must also travel at high speed to generate enough lift to fly. Many of the research prototypes, such as the
Martin Marietta X-24 The Martin Marietta X-24 was an American experimental aircraft developed from a joint United States Air Force-NASA program named PILOT (1963–1975). It was designed and built to test lifting body concepts, experimenting with the concept of unpow ...
, which led up to the
Space Shuttle The Space Shuttle is a retired, partially reusable low Earth orbit A low Earth orbit (LEO) is an Earth-centered orbit near the planet, often specified as having a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * ...

Space Shuttle
, were lifting bodies, though the Space Shuttle is not, and some
supersonic Supersonic speed is the speed of an object that exceeds the speed of sound The speed of sound is the distance travelled per unit of time by a sound wave as it propagates through an elasticity (solid mechanics), elastic medium. At , the spe ...
missile In military terminology, a missile is a missile guidance, guided airborne ranged weapon capable of self-propelled flight usually by a jet engine or rocket motor. Missiles are thus also called guided missiles or guided rockets (when in rocket f ...
s obtain lift from the airflow over a tubular body. * ''
Powered lift A powered lift aircraft takes offs and lands vertically under engine power but uses a fixed wing for horizontal flight. Like helicopter A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by horizontally-spinning ...
'' types rely on engine-derived lift for vertical takeoff and landing (
VTOL A vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft is one that can hover, take off and land vertically without relying on a runway According to the International Civil Aviation Organization The International Civil Aviation Organizat ...
). Most types transition to fixed-wing lift for horizontal flight. Classes of powered lift types include
VTOL A vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft is one that can hover, take off and land vertically without relying on a runway According to the International Civil Aviation Organization The International Civil Aviation Organizat ...
jet aircraft (such as the
Harrier Jump Jet The Harrier, informally referred to as the Harrier Jump Jet, is a family of jet-powered attack aircraft An attack aircraft, strike aircraft, or attack bomber is a tactical military aircraft that has a primary role of carrying out airstrikes ...
) and
tiltrotor A tiltrotor is an aircraft which generates lift (force), lift and thrust, propulsion by way of one or more powered Helicopter rotor, rotors (sometimes called ''proprotors'') mounted on rotating shaft (mechanical engineering), shafts or nacelles usu ...
s, such as the
Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is an American multi-mission, with both vertical takeoff and landing () and short takeoff and landing () capabilities. It is designed to combine the functionality of a conventional with the long-range, high-speed ...
, among others. A few experimental designs rely entirely on engine thrust to provide lift throughout the whole flight, including personal fan-lift hover platforms and jetpacks.
VTOL A vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft is one that can hover, take off and land vertically without relying on a runway According to the International Civil Aviation Organization The International Civil Aviation Organizat ...
research designs include the Rolls-Royce Thrust Measuring Rig. * The ''
Flettner airplane A Flettner airplane is a type of rotor airplane which uses a Flettner rotor to provide lift. The rotor comprises a spinning cylinder with circular end plates and, in an aircraft, spins about a spanwise horizontal axis. When the aircraft moves for ...
'' uses a rotating cylinder in place of a fixed wing, obtaining lift from the
Magnus effect The Magnus effect is an observable phenomenon that is commonly associated with a spinning Object (philosophy), object moving through a fluid. The path of the spinning object is deflected in a manner that is not present when the object is no ...

Magnus effect
. * The ''
ornithopter An ornithopter (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 ...
'' obtains thrust by flapping its wings.


Scale, sizes and speeds


Sizes

The smallest aircraft are toys/recreational items, and even smaller, nano-aircraft. The largest aircraft by dimensions and volume (as of 2016) is the long British Airlander 10, a hybrid blimp, with helicopter and fixed-wing features, and reportedly capable of speeds up to , and an airborne endurance of two weeks with a payload of up to ."World's largest aircraft the Airlander makes maiden flight in UK,"
16 August 2016, London 'Daily Telegraph' via Telegraph.co.uk, retrieved 22 November 2016.
Airlander 10, the world's largest aircraft, takes off for the first time,"19 August 2016, CBS News(TV) retrieved 22 November 2016.Kottasova, Ivan
"The world's largest aircraft crashes after 2nd test flight"
, 24 August 2016, ''CNN Tech'' on
CNN The Cable News Network (CNN) is a multinational news-based pay television Pay television also known as subscription television, premium television or, when referring to an individual service, a premium channel, refers to subscription-based t ...

CNN
, the Cable News Network, retrieved 22 November 2016.
The largest aircraft by weight and largest regular fixed-wing aircraft ever built, , is the Antonov An-225 ''Mriya''. That Ukrainian-built six-engine Russian transport of the 1980s is long, with an wingspan. It holds the world payload record, after transporting of goods, and has recently flown loads commercially. With a maximum loaded weight of , it is also the heaviest aircraft built to date. It can cruise at ."Watch the world's biggest plane land in Australia,"
16 May 2016, Fox News, retrieved 22 November 2016.
Rumbaugh, Andrea
"World's biggest airplane lands at Bush airport,"
Updated 18 November 2016, ''Houston Chonicle'' / Chron.com, retrieved 22 November 2016.
Lewis, Danny
"The World's Largest Aircraft Might Lose its Title to a Blimp,"
18 September 2015, ''Smart News'', Smithsonian.com,
Smithsonian Institution The Smithsonian Institution ( ), or simply, the Smithsonian, is a group of museums and education and research centers, the largest such complex in the world, created by the U.S. government "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge". Founded ...

Smithsonian Institution
, Washington, D.C., retrieved 22 November 2016.
"Ask Us – Largest Plane in the World,"
Aerospaceweb.org, retrieved 22 November 2016.
The largest military airplanes are the Ukrainian/Russian Antonov An-124 ''Ruslan'' (world's second-largest airplane, also used as a civilian transport),"World's Second Largest Aircraft,"
28 July 2013,
NASA The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA; ) is an independent agency A regulatory agency or regulatory authority, is a Public benefit corporation Public-benefit corporation is a term that has different meanings in differen ...

NASA
, retrieved 22 November 2016.
and American
Lockheed C-5 Galaxy The Lockheed C-5 Galaxy is a large military transport aircraft designed and built by Lockheed Corporation, Lockheed, and now maintained and upgraded by its successor, Lockheed Martin. It provides the United States Air Force (USAF) with a heavy i ...
transport, weighing, loaded, over .Loftin, Laurence K., Jr.
"Wide-Body Transports"
, in Chapter 13, "Jet Transports," in Part II, "The Jet Age," in ''Quest for Performance: The Evolution of Modern Aircraft'', NASA SP-468, 1985, Scientific and Technical Information Branch,
NASA The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA; ) is an independent agency A regulatory agency or regulatory authority, is a Public benefit corporation Public-benefit corporation is a term that has different meanings in differen ...

NASA
, Washington, D.C., Updated: 6 August 2004, retrieved 22 November 2016.
The 8-engine, piston/propeller Hughes H-4 ''Hercules'' "Spruce Goose" — an American
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
wooden flying boat transport with a greater wingspan (94m/260ft) than any current aircraft and a tail height equal to the tallest (Airbus A380-800 at 24.1m/78ft) — flew only one short hop in the late 1940s and never flew out of
ground effect Ground effect may refer to: * Ground effect (aerodynamics), the increased lift and decreased aerodynamic drag of a wing close to a fixed surface * Ground effect (cars), an effect that creates downforce, primarily in racing cars * Ground effect vehi ...
. The largest civilian airplanes, apart from the above-noted An-225 and An-124, are the
Airbus Beluga The Airbus A300-600ST (Super Transporter), or Beluga, is a version of the standard A300-600 wide-body airliner modified to carry aircraft parts and outsize cargo. It received the official name of ''Super Transporter'' early on; however, the na ...
cargo transport derivative of the
Airbus A300 The Airbus A300 is a wide-body airliner A wide-body aircraft, also known as a twin-aisle aircraft, is an airliner An airliner is a type of aircraft for transporting passengers and air cargo. Such aircraft are most often operated by a ...
jet airliner, the
Boeing Dreamlifter The Boeing 747 Dreamlifter, also known as the Boeing 747-400 Large Cargo Freighter (LCF), is a Wide-body aircraft, wide-body cargo aircraft modified extensively from the Boeing 747-400 airliner. With a volume of 65,000 cubic feet (1,840 m³) th ...
cargo transport derivative of the
Boeing 747 The Boeing 747 is a large, long–range wide-body airliner A wide-body aircraft, also known as a twin-aisle aircraft, is an airliner An airliner is a type of aircraft for transporting passengers and air cargo. Such aircraft are most ...

Boeing 747
jet airliner/transport (the 747-200B was, at its creation in the 1960s, the heaviest aircraft ever built, with a maximum weight of over ), and the double-decker
Airbus A380 The Airbus A380 is a wide-body aircraft A wide-body aircraft, also known as a twin-aisle aircraft, is an airliner An airliner is a type of aircraft for transporting passengers and air cargo. Such aircraft are most often operated b ...

Airbus A380
"super-jumbo" jet airliner (the world's largest passenger airliner)."Airbus reviews A380 schedule,"
29 April 2008, ''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' is an American daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership. Founded in 1851, the ''Times'' has since won List of Pulitzer Prizes awarded to The New York Times, 132 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of a ...

The New York Times
'', retrieved 22 November 2016.


Speeds

The fastest recorded powered aircraft flight and fastest recorded aircraft flight of an air-breathing powered aircraft was of the
NASA X-43 The NASA X-43 was an with multiple planned variations meant to test various aspects of . It was part of the series and specifically of 's Hyper-X program. It set several for . The X-43 is the fastest jet-powered aircraft on record at appro ...
A ''Pegasus'', a
scramjet A scramjet (supersonic combustion ramjet) is a variant of a ramjet airbreathing jet engine in which combustion takes place in supersonic airflow. As in ramjets, a scramjet relies on high vehicle speed to compress the incoming air forcefully be ...
-powered,
hypersonic In aerodynamics, a hypersonic speed is one that greatly exceeds the speed of sound, often stated as starting at speeds of speed of sound, Mach 5 and above. The precise Mach number at which a craft can be said to be flying at hypersonic speed v ...
,
lifting body A lifting body is a fixed-wing aircraft or spacecraft configuration in which the body itself produces lift. In contrast to a flying wing, which is a wing with minimal or no conventional fuselage In aeronautics, the fuselage (; from the Fr ...
experimental research aircraft, at Mach 9.6, exactly . The X-43A set that new mark, and broke its own world record of Mach 6.3, exactly , set in March 2004, on its third and final flight on 16 November 2004."Hypersonic X-43A Takes Flight.htm,"
NASA The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA; ) is an independent agency A regulatory agency or regulatory authority, is a Public benefit corporation Public-benefit corporation is a term that has different meanings in differen ...

NASA
retrieved November 2016.
"Fastest aircraft, air-breathing engine,"
Guinness World Records, retrieved 2 December 2016.
Prior to the X-43A, the fastest recorded powered airplane flight (and still the record for the fastest manned, powered airplane / fastest manned, non-spacecraft aircraft) was of the , rocket-powered airplane at Mach 6.72, or , on 3 October 1967. On one flight it reached an altitude of .Jackson, Doug
"Ask Us – Aircraft Speed Records,"
22 April 2001, Aerospaceweb.org, retrieved 22 November 2016.
"Fastest speed in a non-spacecraft aircraft,"
Guinness World Records, retrieved 2 December 2016.
Bergqvist, Pia
"Fastest Airplanes: Top Performers in Their Class,"
17 September 2014, '' Flying'', retrieved 3 December 2016
The fastest known, production aircraft (other than rockets and missiles) currently or formerly operational (as of 2016) are: * The fastest fixed-wing aircraft, and fastest glider, is the
Space Shuttle The Space Shuttle is a retired, partially reusable low Earth orbit A low Earth orbit (LEO) is an Earth-centered orbit near the planet, often specified as having a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * ...

Space Shuttle
, a rocket-glider hybrid, which has re-entered the atmosphere as a fixed-wing glider at more than Mach 25, equal to .Benson, Tom, ed.
"Speed Regimes: Hypersonic Re-Entry,"
Glenn Research Center,
NASA The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA; ) is an independent agency A regulatory agency or regulatory authority, is a Public benefit corporation Public-benefit corporation is a term that has different meanings in differen ...

NASA
, retrieved 22 November 2016.
* The fastest military airplane ever built:
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird The Lockheed SR-71 "Blackbird" is a Range (aeronautics), long-range, high-altitude, Mach number, Mach 3+ military strategy, strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed and manufactured by the American aerospace company Lockheed Corporati ...

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
, a U.S.
reconnaissance In military operations, reconnaissance or scouting is the exploration of an area by military forces to obtain information about enemy forces, terrain Relief map of Sierra Nevada, Spain Terrain or relief (also topographical Topogr ...

reconnaissance
jet fixed-wing aircraft, known to fly beyond Mach 3.3, equal to . On 28 July 1976, an SR-71 set the record for the fastest and highest-flying operational aircraft with an absolute speed record of and an absolute altitude record of . At its retirement in the January 1990, it was the fastest air-breathing aircraft / fastest jet aircraft in the world, a record still standing ."Lockheed SR-71A,"
display notes, 29 May 2015,
National Museum of the United States Air Force The National Museum of the United States Air Force (formerly the United States Air Force Museum) is the official museum of the United States Air Force The United States Air Force (USAF) is the air File:Atmosphere gas proportions ...

National Museum of the United States Air Force
retrieved 2 December 2016
Trujillo, Staff Sgt. Robert M
"SR-71 Blackbird: Gone but not forgotten,"
26 January 2016, 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs, U.S. Air Force, retrieved 2 December 2016
"Absolute speed record still stands 40 years later," 27 July 2016 ''General Aviation News'', retrieved 22 November 2016.Woolen, Angela
"SR-71 pilots, crew relive absolute speed record,"
9 August 2016, 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs, United States Air Force, retrieved 2 December 2016
:Note: Some sources refer to the above-mentioned X-15 as the "fastest military airplane" because it was partly a project of the U.S. Navy and Air Force; however, the X-15 was not used in non-experimental actual military operations. * The fastest current military aircraft are the Soviet/Russian
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 (russian: Микоян и Гуревич МиГ-25; NATO reporting name: Foxbat) is a supersonic interceptor and reconnaissance aircraft that was among the fastest military aircraft to enter service. It was desi ...

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25
 — capable of Mach 3.2, equal to , at the expense of engine damage, or Mach 2.83, equal to , normally — and the Russian
Mikoyan MiG-31 The Mikoyan MiG-31 (russian: link=no, Микоян МиГ-31; NATO reporting name: Foxhound) is a supersonic interceptor aircraft that was developed for use by the Soviet Air Forces. The aircraft was designed by the Mikoyan design bureau as a r ...
E (also capable of Mach 2.83 normally). Both are fighter-interceptor jet airplanes, in active operations as of 2016. Bender, Jeremy and Amanda Macias
"The 9 fastest piloted planes in the world,"
18 September 2015, ''Business Insider'', retrieved 3 December 2016
"Fast and furious — the world's fastest military aircraft,"
''Airforce Technology'', retrieved 3 December 2016
The Five Fastest Military Jets Ever Made","
2016, Bloomberg, retrieved 3 December 2016
* The fastest civilian airplane ever built, and fastest passenger airliner ever built: the briefly operated
Tupolev Tu-144 The Tupolev Tu-144 (russian: Tyполев Ту-144; NATO reporting name NATO reporting names are code names for military equipment from Russia, China, and historically, the Eastern Bloc (Soviet Union and other nations of the Warsaw Pact). The ...

Tupolev Tu-144
supersonic jet airliner (Mach 2.35, 1,600 mph, 2,587 km/h), which was believed to cruise at about Mach 2.2. The Tu-144 (officially operated from 1968 to 1978, ending after two crashes of the small fleet) was outlived by its rival, the ''
Concorde The Aérospatiale/British Aircraft Corporation, BAC Concorde () is a British–French turbojet-powered Supersonic transport, supersonic passenger airliner that was operated from 1976 until 2003. It had a maximum speed over twice the speed of ...

Concorde
'' (Mach 2.23), a French/British supersonic airliner, known to cruise at Mach 2.02 (1.450 mph, 2,333 kmh at cruising altitude), operating from 1976 until the small Concorde fleet was grounded permanently in 2003, following the crash of one in the early 2000s."Fastest aircraft, airliner,"
Guinness World Records, retrieved 2 December. 2016.
* The fastest civilian airplane currently flying: the
Cessna Citation X The Cessna Citation X is an American business jet produced by Cessna and part of the Cessna Citation family, Citation family. Announced at the October 1990 National Business Aviation Association, NBAA convention, the Model 750 made its maiden fl ...
, an American business jet, capable of Mach 0.935, or . Its rival, the American
Gulfstream G650 The Gulfstream G650 is a large business jet produced by Gulfstream Aerospace.
business jet, can reach Mach 0.925, or "Cessna rolls out first production unit of new Citation X,"
15 April 2013, ''Wichita Business Journal'', retrieved 22 November 2016.
* The fastest airliner currently flying is the
Boeing 747 The Boeing 747 is a large, long–range wide-body airliner A wide-body aircraft, also known as a twin-aisle aircraft, is an airliner An airliner is a type of aircraft for transporting passengers and air cargo. Such aircraft are most ...

Boeing 747
, quoted as being capable of cruising over Mach 0.885, . Previously, the fastest were the troubled, short-lived Russian (Soviet Union)
Tupolev Tu-144 The Tupolev Tu-144 (russian: Tyполев Ту-144; NATO reporting name NATO reporting names are code names for military equipment from Russia, China, and historically, the Eastern Bloc (Soviet Union and other nations of the Warsaw Pact). The ...

Tupolev Tu-144
SST (Mach 2.35; equal to ) and the French/British ''Concorde'', with a maximum speed of Mach 2.23 or and a normal cruising speed of Mach 2 or ."Ask Us – Fastest Airliner and Area Rule,"
Aerospaceweb.org, retrieved 22 November 2016.
Before them, the
Convair 990 Coronado The Convair 990 Coronado is an American narrow-body A narrow-body aircraft or single-aisle aircraft is an airliner arranged along a single aisle, permitting up to 6-abreast seating in a cabin below of width. In contrast, a wide-body aircr ...
jet airliner of the 1960s flew at over .


Propulsion


Unpowered aircraft

Gliders Glider may refer to: Aircraft and transport Aircraft * Glider (aircraft), heavier-than-air aircraft primarily intended for unpowered flight ** Glider (sailplane), a rigid-winged glider aircraft with an undercarriage, used in the sport of gliding * ...
are heavier-than-air aircraft that do not employ propulsion once airborne. Take-off may be by launching forward and downward from a high location, or by pulling into the air on a tow-line, either by a ground-based winch or vehicle, or by a powered "tug" aircraft. For a glider to maintain its forward air speed and lift, it must descend in relation to the air (but not necessarily in relation to the ground). Many gliders can "soar", ''i.e.'', gain height from updrafts such as thermal currents. The first practical, controllable example was designed and built by the British scientist and pioneer
George Cayley Sir George Cayley, 6th Baronet (27 December 1773 – 15 December 1857) was an English engineer Engineers, as practitioners of engineering, are Professional, professionals who Invention, invent, design, analyze, build and test Machine, machi ...

George Cayley
, whom many recognise as the first aeronautical engineer. Common examples of gliders are
sailplanes A glider or sailplane is a type of glider aircraft used in the leisure activity and sport of gliding (also called soaring). This unpowered aircraft can use naturally occurring currents of rising air in the atmosphere to gain altitude. Sailplanes ...

sailplanes
,
hang gliders Hang gliding is an air sports, air sport or recreational activity in which a pilot flies a light, non-motorised foot-launched heavier-than-air aircraft called a hang glider. Most modern hang gliders are made of an aluminium alloy or Composite mat ...

hang gliders
and .
Balloons A balloon is a flexible bag that can be inflated with a gas, such as helium, hydrogen, nitrous oxide, oxygen, and Atmosphere of Earth, air. For special tasks, balloons can be filled with smoke, liquid water, granular media (e.g. sand, flour ...
drift with the wind, though normally the pilot can control the altitude, either by heating the air or by releasing ballast, giving some directional control (since the wind direction changes with altitude). A wing-shaped hybrid balloon can glide directionally when rising or falling; but a spherically shaped balloon does not have such directional control.
Kite A kite is a tether A tether is a cord, fixture, or flexible attachment that characteristically anchors something movable to something fixed; it also maybe used to connect two movable objects, such as an item being towing, towed by its tow. ...

Kite
s are aircraft that are tethered to the ground or other object (fixed or mobile) that maintains tension in the tether or
kite line In kiting, a line is the string made of cotton, nylon, silk or wire, which connects the kite to the person operating it or an anchor. Kites have a set of wings, a set of anchors, and a set of lines coupling the wings with the anchors. Kite lines per ...
; they rely on virtual or real wind blowing over and under them to generate lift and drag.
Kytoon A kytoon or kite balloon is a tethered aircraft which obtains some of its lift dynamically as a heavier-than-air kite . This sparless, ram-air inflated kite, has a complex bridle formed of many strings attached to the face of the wing. A kite ...
s are balloon-kite hybrids that are shaped and tethered to obtain kiting deflections, and can be lighter-than-air, neutrally buoyant, or heavier-than-air.


Powered aircraft

Powered aircraft have one or more onboard sources of mechanical power, typically
aircraft engine An aircraft engine, often referred to as an aero engine, is the power component of an . Most aircraft engines are either or s, although a few have been powered and in recent years many small s have used s. Manufacturing industry In commerc ...

aircraft engine
s although rubber and manpower have also been used. Most aircraft engines are either lightweight
reciprocating engine A reciprocating engine, also often known as a piston engine, is typically a heat engine In thermodynamics Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat, Work (thermodynamics), work, and temperature, and their relation to ene ...
s or
gas turbine A gas turbine, also called a combustion turbine, is a type of continuous Continuity or continuous may refer to: Mathematics * Continuity (mathematics), the opposing concept to discreteness; common examples include ** Continuous probability di ...
s. Engine fuel is stored in tanks, usually in the wings but larger aircraft also have additional
fuel tank A fuel tank (also called a petrol tank or gas tank) is a safe container box. File:Railroad car with container loads.jpg, A Flatcar#Spine car, spine car with a tank container and an open-top intermodal container, intermodal shipping contain ...

fuel tank
s in the
fuselage In aeronautics Aeronautics is the science or art involved with the study, design process, design, and manufacturing of air flight–capable machines, and the techniques of operating aircraft and rockets within the atmosphere. The British Roy ...

fuselage
.


Propeller aircraft

Propeller aircraft A powered aircraft is an aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to flight, fly by gaining support from the Atmosphere of Earth, air. It counters the force of gravity by using either Buoyancy, static lift or by using the Lift (force) ...
use one or more
propellers . A propeller is a device with a rotating hub and radiating blades that are set at a pitch to form a helical spiral, that, when rotated, exerts linear thrust Thrust is a reaction (physics), reaction force (physics), force described quantitat ...
(airscrews) to create thrust in a forward direction. The propeller is usually mounted in front of the power source in ''
tractor configuration In aviation, the term tractor configuration refers to an aircraft constructed in the standard configuration with its Aircraft engine, engine mounted with the Propeller (aircraft), propeller in front of it so that the aircraft is "pulled" thro ...
'' but can be mounted behind in ''
pusher configuration In an aircraft with a pusher configuration (as opposed to a tractor configuration In aviation, the term tractor configuration refers to an aircraft constructed in the standard configuration with its Aircraft engine, engine mounted with the P ...
''. Variations of propeller layout include ''
contra-rotating propellers Aircraft equipped with contra-rotating propellers, also referred to as CRP, coaxial contra-rotating propellers, or high-speed propellers, apply the maximum power of usually a single piston A piston is a component of reciprocating engine , ...

contra-rotating propellers
'' and ''
ducted fan A ducted fan is an air moving arrangement whereby a mechanical fan A fan is a powered machine A machine is any physical system with ordered structural and functional properties. It may represent human-made or naturally occurring de ...
s''. Many kinds of power plant have been used to drive propellers. Early airships used man power or
steam engines A steam engine is a heat engine In thermodynamics Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat, Work (thermodynamics), work, and temperature, and their relation to energy, entropy, and the physical properties of mat ...
. The more practical
internal combustion piston engine An internal combustion engine (ICE or IC engine) is a in which the of a occurs with an (usually air) in a that is an integral part of the flow circuit. In an internal combustion engine, the expansion of the high- and high- gases produce ...

internal combustion piston engine
was used for virtually all fixed-wing aircraft until
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
and is still used in many smaller aircraft. Some types use turbine engines to drive a propeller in the form of a
turboprop A turboprop engine is a turbine engine A gas turbine, also called a combustion turbine, is a type of continuous Continuity or continuous may refer to: Mathematics * Continuity (mathematics), the opposing concept to discreteness; common ex ...

turboprop
or
propfan A propfan, also called an open rotor engine, or unducted fan (as opposed to a ducted fan), is a type of aircraft engine An aircraft engine, often referred to as an aero engine, is the power component of an aircraft Air propulsion, propulsio ...
.
Human-powered flight HPAs are aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to flight, fly by gaining support from the Atmosphere of Earth, air. It counters the force of gravity by using either Buoyancy, static lift or by using the Lift (force), dynamic lift of ...
has been achieved, but has not become a practical means of transport. Unmanned aircraft and models have also used power sources such as electric motors and rubber bands.


Jet aircraft

Jet aircraft A jet aircraft (or simply jet) is an aircraft (nearly always a fixed-wing aircraft) propelled by jet engines. Whereas the engines in Propeller (aircraft), propeller-powered aircraft generally achieve their maximum efficiency at much lower speeds ...
use
airbreathing jet engine An airbreathing jet engine (or ''ducted jet engine'') is a jet engine that emits a jet of hot exhaust gases formed from air that is forced into the engine by several stages of centrifugal, axial or ram compression, which is then heated and expan ...
s, which take in air, burn fuel with it in a
combustion chamber A combustion chamber is part of an internal combustion engine An internal combustion engine (ICE) is a heat engine in which the combustion of a fuel occurs with an oxidizer (usually air) in a combustion chamber that is an integral part of the ...
, and accelerate the exhaust rearwards to provide thrust. Different jet engine configurations include the
turbojet The turbojet is an airbreathing jet engine An airbreathing jet engine (or ''ducted jet engine'') is a jet engine that emits a jet of hot exhaust gases formed from air that is forced into the engine by several stages of centrifugal, axial ...
and
turbofan The turbofan or fanjet is a type of airbreathing jet engine An airbreathing jet engine (or ''ducted jet engine'') is a jet engine that emits a jet of hot exhaust gases formed from air that is forced into the engine by several stages of cen ...

turbofan
, sometimes with the addition of an
afterburner An afterburner (or reheat U.K.) is an additional combustion component used on some jet engine A jet engine is a type of reaction engine A reaction engine is an engine or motor that produces thrust by expelling reaction mass, in acco ...

afterburner
. Those with no rotating turbomachinery include the
pulsejet A pulsejet engine (or pulse jet) is a type of jet engine in which combustion occurs in pulses. A pulsejet engine can be made with few or no moving parts, and is capable of running statically (i.e. it does not need to have air forced into its in ...
and
ramjet A ramjet, sometimes referred to as a flying stovepipe or an athodyd (aero thermodynamic duct), is a form of airbreathing jet engine that uses the engine's forward motion to compress incoming air without an axial compressor or a centrifugal comp ...

ramjet
. These mechanically simple engines produce no thrust when stationary, so the aircraft must be launched to flying speed using a catapult, like the
V-1 flying bomb The V-1 flying bomb (german: Vergeltungswaffe 1 "Vengeance Weapon 1") was an early cruise missile and the only production aircraft to use a pulsejet for power. Its official aircraft designation was Fi 103. It was also known to the Allies as t ...

V-1 flying bomb
, or a rocket, for example. Other engine types include the
motorjet A motorjet is a rudimentary type of jet engine which is sometimes referred to as ''thermojet'', a term now commonly used to describe a particular and completely unrelated pulsejet A pulsejet engine (or pulse jet) is a type of jet engine in wh ...
and the dual-cycle
Pratt & Whitney J58 The Pratt & Whitney J58 (company designation JT11D-20) was an American jet engine that powered the Lockheed A-12, and subsequently the Lockheed YF-12, YF-12 and the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, SR-71 aircraft. It was an afterburning turbojet with a ...

Pratt & Whitney J58
. Compared to engines using propellers, jet engines can provide much higher thrust, higher speeds and, above about , greater efficiency. They are also much more fuel-efficient than
rocket A rocket (from it, rocchetto, , bobbin/spool) is a spacecraft A spacecraft is a vehicle or machine designed to fly in outer space. A type of artificial satellite alt=, A full-size model of the Earth observation satellite ERS 2 ...

rocket
s. As a consequence nearly all large, high-speed or high-altitude aircraft use jet engines.


Rotorcraft

Some rotorcraft, such as
helicopter A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which Lift (force), lift and thrust are supplied by horizontally spinning Helicopter rotor, rotors. This allows the helicopter to VTOL, take off and land vertically, to hover (helicopter), hover, and to ...

helicopter
s, have a powered rotary wing or ''rotor'', where the rotor disc can be angled slightly forward so that a proportion of its lift is directed forwards. The rotor may, like a propeller, be powered by a variety of methods such as a piston engine or turbine. Experiments have also used jet nozzles at the rotor blade tips.


Other types of powered aircraft

* ''
Rocket-powered aircraft A rocket-powered aircraft or rocket plane is an aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle or machine that is able to fly Flies are insect Insects or Insecta (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Ita ...
'' have occasionally been experimented with, and the fighter even saw action in the Second World War. Since then, they have been restricted to research aircraft, such as the
North American X-15 The North American X-15 is a hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft. It was operated by the United States Air Force and the NASA, National Aeronautics and Space Administration as part of the List of X-planes, X-plane series of experimental aircraft ...

North American X-15
, which traveled up into space where air-breathing engines cannot work (rockets carry their own oxidant). Rockets have more often been used as a supplement to the main power plant, typically for the rocket-assisted take off of heavily loaded aircraft, but also to provide high-speed dash capability in some hybrid designs such as the Saunders-Roe SR.53. * The ''
ornithopter An ornithopter (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 ...
'' obtains thrust by flapping its wings. It has found practical use in a model hawk used to freeze prey animals into stillness so that they can be captured, and in toy birds.


Design and construction

Aircraft are
designed A design is a plan or specification for the construction of an object or system or for the implementation of an activity or process, or the result of that plan or specification in the form of a prototype, product or process. The verb ''to design'' ...

designed
according to many factors such as customer and manufacturer demand,
safety Safety is the state of being "safe", the condition of being protected from harm Harm is a moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European language ...
protocols and physical and economic constraints. For many types of aircraft the design process is regulated by national airworthiness authorities. The key parts of an aircraft are generally divided into three categories: * The ''structure'' comprises the main load-bearing elements and associated equipment. * The ''propulsion system'' (if it is powered) comprises the power source and associated equipment, as described above. * The ''avionics'' comprise the control, navigation and communication systems, usually electrical in nature.


Structure

The approach to structural design varies widely between different types of aircraft. Some, such as paragliders, comprise only flexible materials that act in tension and rely on aerodynamic pressure to hold their shape. A
balloon A balloon is a flexible bag that can be inflated with a gas, such as helium Helium (from el, ἥλιος, helios Helios; Homeric Greek: ), Latinized as Helius; Hyperion and Phaethon are also the names of his father and son respectiv ...
similarly relies on internal gas pressure, but may have a rigid basket or gondola slung below it to carry its payload. Early aircraft, including
airship An airship, dirigible balloon or blimp is a type of aerostat An aerostat (From greek language, Greek ἀήρ ''aer'' (air) + στατός ''statos'' (standing) through French) is a lighter than air aircraft that gains its lift through the ...

airship
s, often employed flexible doped
aircraft fabric covering Aircraft fabric covering is a term used for both the material used and the process of covering aircraft open structures. It is also used for reinforcing closed plywood structures, the de Havilland Mosquito being an example of this technique, and on ...
to give a reasonably smooth aeroshell stretched over a rigid frame. Later aircraft employed semi-
monocoque Monocoque (), also called structural skin, is a structural system in which loads are supported by an object's external skin, in a manner similar to an egg shell. The word ''monocoque'' is a French language, French term for "single shell". First u ...
techniques, where the skin of the aircraft is stiff enough to share much of the flight loads. In a true monocoque design there is no internal structure left. With the recent emphasis on sustainability hemp has picked up some attention, having a way smaller carbon foot print and 10 times stronger than steel, hemp could become the standard of manufacturing in the future. The key structural parts of an aircraft depend on what type it is.


Aerostats

Lighter-than-air types are characterised by one or more gasbags, typically with a supporting structure of flexible cables or a rigid framework called its hull. Other elements such as engines or a gondola may also be attached to the supporting structure.


Aerodynes

Heavier-than-air types are characterised by one or more wings and a central
fuselage In aeronautics Aeronautics is the science or art involved with the study, design process, design, and manufacturing of air flight–capable machines, and the techniques of operating aircraft and rockets within the atmosphere. The British Roy ...

fuselage
. The fuselage typically also carries a tail or
empennage The empennage ( or ), also known as the tail or tail assembly, is a structure at the rear of an aircraft that provides stability during flight, in a way similar to the feathers on an arrow s and nock. An arrow is a fin-stabilized projectile la ...
for stability and control, and an undercarriage for takeoff and landing. Engines may be located on the fuselage or wings. On a
fixed-wing aircraft A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machine Early flying machines include all forms of aircraft studied or constructed before the development of the modern aeroplane by 1910. The story of modern flight begins more than a ce ...
the wings are rigidly attached to the fuselage, while on a
rotorcraft A rotorcraft or rotary-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle or machine that is able to fly Flies are insect Insects or Insecta (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to ...
the wings are attached to a rotating vertical shaft. Smaller designs sometimes use flexible materials for part or all of the structure, held in place either by a rigid frame or by air pressure. The fixed parts of the structure comprise the
airframe The mechanical structure of an aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle or machine that is able to fly Flies are insect Insects or Insecta (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...
.


Avionics

The avionics comprise the
aircraft flight control system A conventional fixed-wing aircraft flight control system consists of flight control surfaces, the respective cockpit controls, connecting linkages, and the necessary operating mechanisms to control an aircraft's direction in flight. Aircraft ...
s and related equipment, including the
cockpit A cockpit or flight deck is the area, usually near the front of an aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle or machine that is able to fly Flies are insect Insects or Insecta (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belo ...

cockpit
instrumentation, navigation,
radar Radar (radio detection and ranging) is a detection system that uses radio waves to determine the distance (''ranging''), angle, or velocity of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, Marine radar, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor ...

radar
, monitoring, and
communications system 400px, Communication system A communications system or communication system is a collection of individual telecommunications networks, transmission systems, relay stations, tributary stations, and terminal equipment usually capable of inte ...
s.


Flight characteristics


Flight envelope

The flight envelope of an aircraft refers to its approved design capabilities in terms of
airspeed Aircraft have pitot tubes for measuring airspeed. Airspeed is the speed In everyday use and in kinematics, the speed (commonly referred to as v) of an object is the magnitude (mathematics), magnitude of the change of its Position (vector), ...

airspeed
, load factor and altitude. The term can also refer to other assessments of aircraft performance such as maneuverability. When an aircraft is abused, for instance by diving it at too-high a speed, it is said to be flown ''outside the envelope'', something considered foolhardy since it has been taken beyond the design limits which have been established by the manufacturer. Going beyond the envelope may have a known outcome such as or entry to a non-recoverable spin (possible reasons for the boundary).


Range

The range is the distance an aircraft can fly between
takeoff Takeoff is the phase of flight in which an aerospace vehicle leaves the ground and becomes airborne. For aircraft traveling vertically, this is known as liftoff. For aircraft that take off horizontally, this usually involves starting with a t ...

takeoff
and
landing Landing is the last part of a flight Flight or flying is the process by which an object (physics), object motion (physics), moves through a space without contacting any planetary surface, either within an atmosphere (i.e. air flight ...

landing
, as limited by the time it can remain airborne. For a powered aircraft the time limit is determined by the fuel load and rate of consumption. For an unpowered aircraft, the maximum flight time is limited by factors such as weather conditions and pilot endurance. Many aircraft types are restricted to daylight hours, while balloons are limited by their supply of lifting gas. The range can be seen as the average ground speed multiplied by the maximum time in the air. The
Airbus A350 The Airbus A350 is a long-range, wide-body jet airliner developed by Airbus Airbus SE (; ; ; ) is a European multinational aerospace corporation. Airbus designs, manufactures and sells civil and military aerospace Aerospace is a ...
is now the longest range airliner.


Flight dynamics

Flight dynamics is the science of air vehicle orientation and control in three dimensions. The three critical flight dynamics parameters are the
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around three axes which pass through the vehicle's
center of gravity In physics, the center of mass of a distribution of mass Mass is the physical quantity, quantity of ''matter'' in a physical body. It is also a measure (mathematics), measure of the body's ''inertia'', the resistance to acceleration (change ...

center of gravity
, known as ''
pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency * Pitch (music), the perceived frequency of sound including "definite pitch" and "indefinite pitch" ** Absolute pitch or "perfect pitch" ** Pitch class, a set of all pitches that are a whole number of octaves ...

pitch
'', ''
roll Roll or Rolls may refer to: Movement about the longitudinal axis * Roll (flight), motion about the longitudinal axis of an aircraft ** Roll, an aerobatic maneuver ** Roll program, an aerodynamic maneuver performed in a rocket launch * Roll (ship), ...

roll
,'' and ''''. * Roll is a rotation about the longitudinal axis (equivalent to the rolling or heeling of a ship) giving an up-down movement of the wing tips measured by the roll or bank angle. * Pitch is a rotation about the sideways horizontal axis giving an up-down movement of the aircraft nose measured by the
angle of attack In fluid dynamics, angle of attack (AOA, α, or \alpha) is the angle between a Airfoil#Airfoil terminology, reference line on a body (often the chord (aircraft), chord line of an airfoil) and the vector (geometry), vector representing the relativ ...

angle of attack
. * Yaw is a rotation about the vertical axis giving a side-to-side movement of the nose known as sideslip. Flight dynamics is concerned with the stability and control of an aircraft's rotation about each of these axes.


Stability

An aircraft that is unstable tends to diverge from its intended flight path and so is difficult to fly. A very stable aircraft tends to stay on its flight path and is difficult to maneuver. Therefore, it is important for any design to achieve the desired degree of stability. Since the widespread use of digital computers, it is increasingly common for designs to be inherently unstable and rely on computerised control systems to provide artificial stability. A fixed wing is typically unstable in pitch, roll, and yaw. Pitch and yaw stabilities of conventional fixed wing designs require horizontal and vertical stabilisers,Crane, Dale: ''Dictionary of Aeronautical Terms, third edition'', p. 194. Aviation Supplies & Academics, 1997. Aviation Publishers Co. Limited, ''From the Ground Up'', p. 10 (27th revised edition) which act similarly to the feathers on an arrow. These stabilizing surfaces allow equilibrium of aerodynamic forces and to stabilise the
flight dynamics Flight dynamics in aviation Aviation is the activities surrounding mechanical flight and the aircraft industry. ''Aircraft'' includes airplane, fixed-wing and helicopter, rotary-wing types, morphable wings, wing-less lifting bodies, as well ...

flight dynamics
of pitch and yaw. They are usually mounted on the tail section (
empennage The empennage ( or ), also known as the tail or tail assembly, is a structure at the rear of an aircraft that provides stability during flight, in a way similar to the feathers on an arrow s and nock. An arrow is a fin-stabilized projectile la ...
), although in the canard layout, the main aft wing replaces the canard foreplane as pitch stabilizer.
Tandem wing image:qac.quickie.q2.g-bspa.flying.arp.jpg, QAC Quickie Q2 A tandem wing arrangement has two main wings, with one located forward and the other to the rear. Both wings contribute to lift (force), lift. Tandem wings are rare, but they do appear in ...
and
tailless aircraft A tailless aircraft has no tail assembly and no other horizontal surface besides its main wing. The aerodynamic control and stabilisation functions in both pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency * Pitch (music), the perceived frequency of ...
rely on the same general rule to achieve stability, the aft surface being the stabilising one. A rotary wing is typically unstable in yaw, requiring a vertical stabiliser. A balloon is typically very stable in pitch and roll due to the way the payload is slung underneath the center of lift.


Control

Flight control surfaces Aircraft flight control surfaces are aerodynamic devices allowing a pilot to adjust and control the aircraft's flight attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology Psychology is the ...
enable the pilot to control an aircraft's flight attitude and are usually part of the wing or mounted on, or integral with, the associated stabilizing surface. Their development was a critical advance in the history of aircraft, which had until that point been uncontrollable in flight.
Aerospace engineers Aerospace engineering is the primary field of engineering Engineering is the use of scientific method, scientific principles to design and build machines, structures, and other items, including bridges, tunnels, roads, vehicles, and build ...

Aerospace engineers
develop
control system A control system manages, commands, directs, or regulates the behavior of other devices or systems using control loop A control loop is the fundamental building block of industrial control systems. It consists of all the physical components a ...
s for a vehicle's orientation (attitude) about its
center of mass In physics, the center of mass of a distribution of mass Mass is the physical quantity, quantity of ''matter'' in a physical body. It is also a measure (mathematics), measure of the body's ''inertia'', the resistance to acceleration (change ...
. The control systems include actuators, which exert forces in various directions, and generate rotational forces or moments about the
aerodynamic center The torques or moments acting on an airfoil An airfoil (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native ...
of the aircraft, and thus rotate the aircraft in pitch, roll, or yaw. For example, a
pitching moment Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency * Pitch (music) Pitch is a perception, perceptual property of sounds that allows their ordering on a frequency-related scale (music), scale, or more commonly, pitch is the quality that makes it possible to ...
is a vertical force applied at a distance forward or aft from the aerodynamic center of the aircraft, causing the aircraft to pitch up or down. Control systems are also sometimes used to increase or decrease drag, for example to slow the aircraft to a safe speed for landing. The two main aerodynamic forces acting on any aircraft are lift supporting it in the air and
drag Drag or The Drag may refer to: Places * Drag, Norway, a village in Tysfjord municipality, Nordland, Norway * ''Drág'', the Hungarian name for Dragu Commune in Sălaj County, Romania * Drag (Austin, Texas), the portion of Guadalupe Street adja ...
opposing its motion. Control surfaces or other techniques may also be used to affect these forces directly, without inducing any rotation.


Impacts of aircraft use

Aircraft permit long distance, high speed
travel Travel is the movement of people between distant geographical location In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabi ...
and may be a more
fuel efficient A fuel is any material that can be made to react with other substances so that it releases energy as heat energy or to be used for work (physics), work. The concept was originally applied solely to those materials capable of releasing chemical ...

fuel efficient
mode of transportation in some circumstances. Aircraft have environmental and climate impacts beyond fuel efficiency considerations, however. They are also relatively noisy compared to other forms of travel and high altitude aircraft generate
contrail Contrails (; short for "condensation trails") or vapor trails are line-shaped clouds produced by aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to flight, fly by gaining support from the Atmosphere of Earth, air. It counters the force of ...

contrail
s, which experimental evidence suggests may alter weather patterns.


Uses for aircraft

Aircraft are produced in several different types optimized for various uses;
military aircraft A military aircraft is any Fixed-wing aircraft, fixed-wing or rotorcraft, rotary-wing aircraft that is operated by a legal or insurrectionary armed service of any type. Military aircraft can be either combat or non-combat: * Combat aircraft are ...
, which includes not just combat types but many types of supporting aircraft, and
civil aircraft Civil aviation is one of two major categories of flying, representing all non-military and non-state aviation Aviation is the activities surrounding mechanical flight Flight or flying is the process by which an object (physics), object mot ...
, which include all non-military types, experimental and model.


Military

A military aircraft is any aircraft that is operated by a legal or insurrectionary armed service of any type. Military aircraft can be either combat or non-combat: * Combat aircraft are aircraft designed to destroy enemy equipment using its own armament. Combat aircraft divide broadly into
fighters Fighter(s) or The Fighter(s) may refer to: Combat and warfare * Combatant, an individual legally entitled to engage in hostilities during an international armed conflict * Fighter aircraft, a warplane designed to destroy or damage enemy warplanes ...

fighters
and
bomber A bomber is a combat aircraft designed to attack ground and naval targets by dropping air-to-ground weaponry (such as bombs), launching aerial torpedo, torpedoes, or deploying air-launched cruise missiles. The first use of bombs dropped from an ...
s, with several in-between types, such as
fighter-bomber A fighter-bomber is a fighter aircraft Fighter aircraft are fixed-wing A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machine, such as an airplane An airplane or aeroplane (informally plane) is a fixed-wing aircraft that ...
s and
attack aircraft An attack aircraft, strike aircraft, or attack bomber is a tactical military aircraft A military aircraft is any fixed-wing A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machine, such as an airplane An airplane or aeroplane ( ...
, including attack helicopters. * Non-combat aircraft are not designed for combat as their primary function, but may carry weapons for self-defense. Non-combat roles include search and rescue, reconnaissance, observation, transport, training, and aerial refueling. These aircraft are often variants of civil aircraft. Most military aircraft are powered heavier-than-air types. Other types, such as gliders and balloons, have also been used as military aircraft; for example, balloons were used for observation during the American Civil War and World War I, and military gliders were used during
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
to land troops.


Civil

Civil aircraft divide into ''commercial'' and ''general'' types, however there are some overlaps. Commercial aviation, Commercial aircraft include types designed for scheduled and charter airline flights, carrying passengers, Airmail, mail and other cargo. The larger passenger-carrying types are the airliners, the largest of which are wide-body aircraft. Some of the smaller types are also used in general aviation, and some of the larger types are used as Air transports of heads of state and government, VIP aircraft. General aviation is a catch-all covering other kinds of Private aviation, private (where the pilot is not paid for time or expenses) and commercial use, and involving a wide range of aircraft types such as Business jet, business jets (bizjets), Trainer aircraft, trainers, Homebuilt aircraft, homebuilt,
gliders Glider may refer to: Aircraft and transport Aircraft * Glider (aircraft), heavier-than-air aircraft primarily intended for unpowered flight ** Glider (sailplane), a rigid-winged glider aircraft with an undercarriage, used in the sport of gliding * ...
, warbirds and
hot air balloon A hot-air balloon is a lighter-than-air A lifting gas or lighter than air gas is a gas that has a lower density than normal atmospheric gases and rises above them as a result. It is required for aerostats to create buoyancy, particularly in ...
s to name a few. The vast majority of aircraft today are general aviation types.


Experimental

An experimental aircraft is one that has not been fully proven in flight, or that carries a Airworthiness certificate#Special Airworthiness Certificate, Special Airworthiness Certificate, called an Experimental Certificate in United States parlance. This often implies that the aircraft is testing new aerospace technologies, though the term also refers to amateur-built and kit-built aircraft, many of which are based on proven designs.


Model

A model aircraft is a small unmanned type made to fly for fun, for static display, for aerodynamic research or for other purposes. A scale model is a replica of some larger design.


See also


Lists

* Early flying machines * Flight altitude record * List of aircraft * List of civil aircraft * List of fighter aircraft * List of individual aircraft * List of large aircraft * wikt:Appendix:Glossary of aviation, aerospace, and aeronautics, List of aviation, aerospace and aeronautical terms


Topics

* Aircraft hijacking * Aircraft spotting * Air traffic control * Airport * Flying car * Personal air vehicle * Powered parachute * Spacecraft * Spaceplane


References

*


External links


History


The Evolution of Modern Aircraft (NASA)



Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
nbsp;— Online collection with a particular focus on history of aircraft and spacecraft
Amazing Early Flying Machines
slideshow by ''Life (magazine), Life'' magazine


Information


Airliners.net

Aviation Dictionary
Free aviation terms, phrases and jargons
''New Scientist's'' Aviation page
{{Authority control Aircraft,