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Tail Assembly

Most airplanes, except for flying wings, have a tail assembly attached to the rear of the fuselage, consisting of vertical and horizontal stabilizers, which look like small wings; a rudder; and elevators. The components of the tail assembly are collectively referred to as the empennage.

The stabilizers serve to help keep the airplane stable while in flight. The rudder is at the trailing edge of the vertical stabilizer and is used by the airplane to help control turns. An airplane actually turns by banking, or moving, its wings laterally, but the rudder helps keep the turn coordinated by serving much like a boat’s rudder to move the nose of the airplane left or right. Moving an airplane’s nose left or right is known as a yaw motion. Rudder motion is usually controlled by two pedals on the floor of the cockpit, which are pushed by the pilot.

Elevators are control surfaces at the trailing edge of horizontal stabilizers. The elevators control the up-and-down motion, or pitch, of the airplane’s nose. Moving the elevators up into the airstream will cause the tail to go down and the nose to pitch up. A pilot controls pitch by moving a control column or stick.

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