Airplane tails are designed to stabilize and control the aircraft in upward and downward movements with regard to pitch and side-by-side movements with regard to yaw. They are available in various arrangements in terms of the horizontal and vertical stabilizing surfaces at the rear part of an aircraft. In some contexts, the tail is often referred to as an empennage or stabilizer, with “stabilizer” being the preferred term because it is more aligned with the component’s function.
The airplane tail is designed to provide both stability and control of the aircraft in pitch and yaw. To meet the dual requirements of stability and control, the aircraft tail takes on different forms. Nonetheless, most tail designs will feature a horizontal wing-like structure and one or more vertical or near-vertical structures. These structures are generally identified as the horizontal and vertical stabilizers, but it is worth noting that not all designs conveniently fit such a description.
Different Airplane Tail Designs
There are many types of airplane tail designs, some of which include conventional, T-tail, cruciform-tail, dual-tail, triple-tail, V-tail, inverted V-tail, inverted Y-tail, twin-tail, boom-tail, high boom-tail, and multiple-plane tail designs. However, this blog will outline the first three as they are the most popular from this list.
Conventional Tail Design
This tail design consists of one vertical stabilizer located at the tapered tail section of the fuselage and one horizontal stabilizer divided into two parts, one on each side of the vertical stabilizer. For a majority of aircraft, the conventional arrangement provides sufficient stability and control while offering the lowest structural weight. Aircraft models equipped with this tail arrangement include the Airbus A300, the Boeing 777 and 747, and the Beech Bonanza A-36.
With a T-tail design, the horizontal stabilizer is situated at the top of the vertical stabilizer, while the horizontal stabilizer is positioned above the propeller flow, or prop wash, and the wing wake. In this configuration, the horizontal and vertical stabilizer are more aerodynamically efficient. However, the horizontal stabilizer imposes a bending and twisting load on the vertical stabilizer, necessitating a stronger, heavier structure. Major American transport aircraft manufacturers like Boeing and McDonnell Douglas utilize the T-tail design, with some popular models including the Boeing 727 and the McDonnell Douglas MD-90.
The cruciform-tail design is a compromise between the conventional and T-tail designs. In this configuration, the horizontal stabilizer is partially moved up to the vertical stabilizer, keeping the horizontal stabilizer away from the jet exhaust and wing wake. Furthermore, this arrangement exposes the lower part of the vertical stabilizer and rudder to undisturbed airflow which helps in the recovery from spins. A notable example of the cruciform-tail design can be found on the North American Rockwell B-1B supersonic bomber.
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