The most commonly used type of aircraft are commercial planes, but beyond this, not many people are aware of the other aircraft categories that exist. They can be classified into two different categories, which are aircraft that are lighter than air and aircraft that are heavier than air. With regards to the former, lighter than air vessels utilize buoyancy to float in the air, much like how boats do so in the water. They tend to have one or more large canopies that are filled with helium, hydrogen or hot air. These are relatively low density gasses, which are less dense than the surrounding air. When the weight of this is added to the weight of the aircraft structure, it adds up to the same weight as the air that the craft displaces. As for aircraft that are heavier than air, these vessels fly because they push air or gas downwards, thus enabling Newton’s law of motion. For a basic outline of the aircraft under these two categories, read on below.
The aircraft under this category are airplanes, which are characterized by their method of propulsion and by their wing configuration (whether its monoplane or biplane). Other characterizations include wing support (rigid or flexible), the location of the horizontal stabilizer and the Dihedral angle (some are positive, zero or negative/anhedral). The majority of fixed-wing aircraft feature a tail unit
or empennage incorporating vertical, and often horizontal, stabilizing surfaces.
Powered balloons, first commonly known as dirigibles, were characterized by a rigid outer framework and separate aerodynamic skin surrounding the gas bags. The largest of these were known as Zeppelins. With time came new changes to the design, and eventually the dirigibles were more commonly being referred to as blimps.
Rotorcraft also known as a rotary-wing aircraft can take flight by use of a rotary wing
, that is, a spinning rotor with aerofoil section blades. The different types of rotorcrafts include helicopters, autogyros and various hybrids. Helicopters have a powered rotor which is driven by the engine. By pushing air downward, the helicopter can create lift and by tilting the rotor forwards, the downwards flow is tilted backwards, producing thrust for forward flight.
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