Parts of the Aircraft

Wheels and Brakes

The Wright Flyer didn't have wheels at all, but most airplanes do.  Until about fifty years ago, the normal configuration  was two main wheels just ahead of the centre of gravity, and one small wheel at the back. This set up is still known as conventional gear, implying that anything else is unconventional. You will also hear aircraft with a tailwheel called taildraggers. The last is ironic, because the tailwheel produces much less drag than the nosewheel on a tricycle gear airplane.

Cessna 140Whereever your wheels are, it's important to check that they are correctly and securely attached, that the tires are properly inflated and in good condition, and that the brakes are aligned and not excessively worn.

The C140 shown has wheel pants also called speed fairings over the wheels. These look nice and reduce interference drag by streamlining the wheels, thus add a couple of knots to the speed in cruise. Most flying schools take the wheel pants off and leave them off because they interfere with a thorough inspection of wheels and brakes, and increase the time required for maintenance. Owners who fly out of muddy or snow covered fields will also remove the wheel pants to keep them from being clogged up.C172 main gear

The tricycle gear is now the normal arrangement for airplane wheels, with the sturdier main gear just aft of the centre of gravity. This gives the airplane more stability landing or taxiing in a crosswind, but the nosewheel is a vulnerable component. Improper landing technique can damage not only the nosewheel, but the firewall, too. Always keep the nosewheel off the ground until the mains are down, and then lower it gently, don't drop it to the ground.

This Cessna 172 does not have a fairing over the gear, so you can see the shape of the flat gear. It's basically a big spring that absorbs the shock of landing, which is why if you land hard it can bounce you back into the air. This picture shows the brake disc close to the wheel, and the housing for the brake cylinder. You can also see the hydraulic line curling up away from the brake. It runs up the gear strut under the floor to the brake pedals. You can see another tailwheel airplane in the background under the elevator.

Tricycle gearIn this head-on picture of a C150 you can see the bottom of the compression strut on the nosewheel gear. You should be able to get three fingers in here below the outer sleeve, or there is not enough inflation in the strut.

These are all the pictures I have of airplane parts, but I would appreciate more pictures, especially if you have pictures of special characteristics of training aircraft, or aircraft defects encountered during preflight.

This page written 12 November 2003 by Robyn Stewart. 
Copyright 2003 Flying Start Initiatives

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