Through history, the Aircraft Fuselage structure has seen constant development as it has evolved from the basic wire braced structure of the Wright brothers to the modern semi-monocoque design of current commercial aircraft. From the choice of aircraft fuselage material to the development of new airframe structural components, each design of the modern structure was made to achieve a specific purpose. In this blog, we will discuss the modern structure of the aircraft fuselage and tail, as well as some of the fuselage designs that have been used in recent history and today.
Although there are many types of aircraft currently in service, most share the common attributes of carrying crew, passengers, and cargo. Aircraft also require some sort of Propulsion System and method of flight, and thus the design must be able to accomodate for all of these requirements. Modern commercial aircraft utilize the semi-monocoque structure, which was designed after boat building techniques. With this rigid set of frames, spars, ribs, and stringers, the aircraft is able to both accommodate passengers and crew, as well as remain very aerodynamic.
Within the semi-monocoque aircraft fuselage structure, Aircraft Components such as the shell, beams, and stringers are in place to reinforce the fuselage and bear various stresses caused by flight and operation. An aircraft fuselage material such as aluminum is most often used to create the shell around the fuselage, which also helps share some of the structural stress load. From the fuselage structure, most other aircraft structural components, such as the wings and tail section, are then attached.
The tail section, also referred to as the empennage, contains various aircraft components that serve very important purposes for aerodynamics and control of flight. The materials and design of the tail often follow that of the aircraft fuselage structure, Featuring Stringers, bulkheads, frames, and more. These different components are typically lighter though, as they do not undergo as much stress as the fuselage structure. On the tail structure, the horizontal and vertical stabilizer, rudder, trim tabs, and elevator are all installed, all aiding in stabilization and control during flight.
While the semi-monocoque design encompasses most modern, aluminum built passenger aircraft, there are various other structures that other planes may feature. The truss structure is one such type for lighter aircraft in which steel tube or wood box trusses are accompanied by Stringers and fabrics to create the frame. The geodesic structure is another type of design that features a basket-like construction of wound stringers that are covered with fabrics. This design was often used during the years leading into World War II, and the materials used often included plywood or aluminum alloys.
The monocoque shell developed off of the geodesic design, using molded plywood to create the main structure. The main plywood structure of this design also serves as the exterior surface, meaning that the outer shell itself is also the main supporting structure for stress loads. Molded composites also have been utilized for the structure in lieu of molded plywood for later designs. This use of composite materials has also been featured on aircraft, such as sailplanes and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. In both monocoque and semi-monocoque structures, the design is considered a “stress skin” structure due to the fact that the outer shell helps take some of the load from the internal aircraft components and structures.
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