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General Presentation Of a GA Plane

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A general aviation, or 'GA plane', is a plane of the type, for example, of the default FS2002 Cessna 172. A general aviation plane is generally used by a private person for its personal use, like touring or personal transport. Such planes, further, are used like school planes in the aviation schools as, aboard them, apprentice-pilots are earning their private pilote license, the entry level of a career in aviation. People may stop at that level of flying, which allows for recreational flights in VFR conditions -in some, determined weather conditions with which the pilot is keeping the view of the ground- or they may keep on in the aviation environment and advance either like a private, or a commercial pilot. Hence, they fly aboard more sophisticated planes, like the default FS2002 Cessna 182S, with a variable pitch propeller; or a multiengine plane, with a retractable landing gear, like the default Beechcraft Baron 58. The following tutorial allows you to better master the fundamental concepts which matter to a GA plane

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. The Major Components of a Plane
. More Components

arrow back The Major Components of a Plane
thumbnail to a view of the major components of a planeclick on the picture to a view of the major components of a plane

Let's begin the tour at the fore of the plane. Here we are at the powerplant of it. The plane's engine is located in a nacelle, as in GA planes, such an engine is a reciprocating one, with a carburettor. The main function of the plane's engine is to transmit its rotation to the propeller through a crankshaft. The propeller, in turn, is powering the plane. A propeller is nothing but two -or more- little wings put together, as they 'bite' into the air and hence they pull the plane forwards! It's the propeller which is making the plane moving along the taxiways; it's the propeller which has the plane taking off and then flying. The engine is consumating gas, like a car engine, at the difference that the gas is an aviation gas, with a specific octane number. The gas tanks are usually located in the wings of the airplane, or in the fuselage. The next element you'll find on the plane, is the cabin, or cockpit. The cabin is where the occupants -and pilot- of the plane are seated, as it's there too that one founds the controls of the plane, and the 'panel', onto which various gauges and indicators are affixed, allowing to be aware of the plane's spatial attitude, state and liability. The fuselage is continuing the plane behind the cabin, as at a different location according to plane's type and/or manufacturer, wings are attached to there. Wings are airfoils and the main lifting surfaces, supporting the plane in flight. The way wings allow a plane to fly is due to the 'Bernoulli principle'. The Bernoulli principle is the fact that, due to the wing's pecular shape, the flow of the air is made such -through the mean of the propeller pulling the plane through the air- that the airflow is moving more swiftly on the wing's upper surface, and less on the wing's lower surface. This is explained by that the air, along the wing's shape, has to journey a longer way on the upper surface than on the lower one. This, logically, makes that the air flowing above the wing's upper surface eventually become of a lesser pressure than the one flowing along the lower one. It's that difference of pressure with makes the plane fly. Simply as the denser air, under the wing, is providing a support for lift, as, to that lift, the thinner air above, does not oppose. Hence the plane is taking support on the denser air under the wing, and it flies!

thumbnail to a view of the forces at work, which make that a plane fliesclick on the picture to a view of the forces at work, which make that a plane flies

Once in flight, how does a pilot control the plane, to have it turn, fly level, and such? It does simply through the control systems of the plane. Three 'primary control surfaces' linked to three 'primary flight controls' are used:

Those three control surfaces are acted, from inside the plane, by three flight controls. The yoke, first, and the rudder. The yoke may come into two types: a flight stick, or a control wheel. A stick, the most ancient form found, is a vertically-attached stick, located between the pilot's legs, and maneuvered by one hand only, as a wheel is handed at two hands, and attached horizontally to the plane's panel. The rudder is those two pedals located under the plane's panel, as they are maneuvered by the pilots trough his feet. As far as the yoke is concerned, it controls both the ailerons and the elevator. As a flight stick is moveable in all directions, a control wheel may only be pushed-pulled or turned left-right. With a stick, when you pull or push it, you're acting on the elevator: push it, you lower the elevator and have the plane go down; pull it, the reverse. When you push the stick left, or right, you're controling the ailerons. Push the stick left or right, and the plane turns in that direction. The controls are handled about the same with a control wheel, at the only difference mentioned above that you strictly can just push-pull, and turn left-right. The rudder's pedals are just acting on the rudder, at the plane's tail. If you act (push) on the left pedal, the rudder there deflects left and the plane's nose shifts left; and conversely

Hence, now, you have just got an overview about what makes a plane, basically, with a fuselage, a powerplant, wings and surfaces modifying the airflow and/or lift. The plane, this way, is flying, and is controled!

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thumbnail to a view of a plane's cockpitclick on the picture to a view of a plane's cockpit

More commands intervene into flying a plane. They are mostly commands acting upon the engine. Like the fuel selector valve, the mixture control (the proportion between gas and air function of the altitude); the gas lever (or throttle), which is the main way to command the engine; the carburetor heater (which diverts a part of the hot gases of the engine to prevent the carburetor from icing, this part of the engine where gas is mixed with air before being sent to the engine); the battery switch (the battery of the plane is providing the energy when you start the engine); the alternator (which maintain the battery charged during the flight); or, at last, the magnetos igniting system, which allows those two set of components to ignite a spark in the spark plugs of the cylinders, igniting the gas-air mixture. Gauges allow, from inside the cockpit, on the panel, for the pilot to get information on how the powerplant is performing, like the fuel, fuel pressure, charging by the alternator or the oil temperature and pressure gauges

More surfaces too, are controling the plane in flight, like the flaps or the trim systems. Those are called the 'secondary flight controls'. Flaps are additional surfaces, which deploy from the wings, during specific parts of the flight. Flaps mostly increase the lift at low speeds, as they are used, for example, for the takeoff, landing and the phases of the approach. Flaps are commanded from inside the plane through various mechanism variously powered (mechanically, electrically, etc.). Trims tabs, as far as they are concerned, are small control surfaces which allow to tune the command of the primary flight controls (the ailerons, the elevator, and the rudder). They are located at the rear of those. Once a control surface activated, should the plane have to be kept in the attitude reached, the tab command allows to alleviate the main control surface workload -and pilot's action on the command. Let's take as an example, the climb, after takeoff. In such a phase of the flight, the plane will have to climb during a long time, to reach its cruise altitude. Hence the pilot, first, will pull the yoke backwards to place the plane into the appropriate pitch, through the elevator, as, commanding the elevator's tabs, that will have the air flow on the elevator's surface streamlined, thus having the plane settled into the desired climb pitch, and the pilot having less action to exert onto the yoke. Tabs are activated from inside the cabin, with a small control wheel, generally

The main component of a plane's cabin -as seen from the pilot's point of view- is, obviously, the panel. Let's have a detailed look at your GA plane's panel (see the diagram above)! Seven, large gauges are the gauges which gives the pilot the main data about the plane's attitude, and the tachometer (r.p.m). The panel's center is fit with radios and the radio navigation aids (VOR, ADF, etc). The left part of the panel, on the other hand, is displaying various accessory systems, like the fuses, for example. You will have noted that any GA plane, albeit, at the end of your training, you'll be the sole pilot, features, in front of the right seat, a yoke and rudder's pedals. Such a concept mainly allows your instructor to command the plane at the same time than you, allowing him to correct for your errors

As far as taxiing your plane on the ground is concerned, a GA plane usually features a tricycle landing gear, with the front one commanded through the rudder (in Flight Simulator, you generally can either use that too, provided you have got rudder's pedals, or you can disconnect the function and control the plane steering with your yoke). When you push the right rudder pedal, the plane turn right, and reciprocally (with yoke: yoke right, the plane turns right; yoke left, it turns left). Ground brakes, at last, are featured by most GA planes -as they are variously commanded from inside the cabin. Actioning the brakes, just brakes the plane. The brakes are used either when taxiing, or after touchdown (when you increase the plane's decceleration). Such a braking system, usually may be set into a 'parked position'. That command is used when you'll park the plane once the flight over, or each time that, on ground, in preparation -or after- a flight, you'll have to stop (to let another plane taxi, for example, or for the runup -the before takeoff check). You'll note that usually, when in a hanger, the plane's brakes are not set to parked, to allow a swift evacuation of the planes in case of fire). Both brakes' modes are usually featured in Flight Simulator

A GA plane, at last, features various lighting systems. The beacon light is a red, static light, which is used to signal that the pilot in onboard. The strobe lights are flashing lights which allows to the plane to be seen from the other pilots when flying the approaches -in an environment where much planes are present. The navigation lights are those three lights which allow to locate a plane in flight, at night, and its orientation. A green light indeed, is located at the tip of the right wing, a red one, at the tip of the left wind, and a white one at the rear of the plane. The landing light allows the pilot to lighten the runway during taking off or landing at night. The taxi light, at last, allows to lighten, at night, the taxiways during taxiing

Website Manager: G. Guichard, site Lessons In Microsoft Flight Simulator / Leçons de vol pour les Flight Simulator de Microsoft, Page Editor: G. Guichard. last edited: 5/27/2013. contact us at
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