To help an aircraft achieve and sustain flight, a variety of aerodynamic surfaces are installed to allow for lift generation, directional control, and much more. Aircraft stabilizers are critical aerodynamic surfaces that provide stability and control to the pitch and yaw. Stabilizers often vary in type, and they can be fixed, adjustable, or fully moveable surfaces. For the standard aircraft, horizontal and vertical stabilizers, or v-tail configurations, are placed on the empennage to provide for longitudinal and directional stabilization and control.
With horizontal stabilizers, the aircraft may maintain its longitudinal balance. To do this, the aircraft stabilizer exerts vertical forces from a distance in order to ensure a zero summation of pitch moments at the center of gravity. As the center of pressure and gravity may change throughout a flight operation, the exerted vertical force of the stabilizer may be adjusted to compensate.
Beyond providing longitudinal balance, horizontal stabilizers are also useful for longitudinal static stability. Longitudinal static stability is a facet of flight dynamics, and it describes aircraft longitudinal plane stability while operating in steady flight conditions. In regards to aircraft, it describes how likely the aircraft will return to its trimmed condition if distrubed. With a horizontal stabilizer on an aircraft, lift may be produced in a downwards direction, maintaining the center of gravity ahead of the center of pressure.
Across many aircraft, the most common configuration for horizontal stabilizers is at the tail or tailplane. For tailplanes specifically, a fixed surface may be fitted with an elevator surface and trim tabs in order to ease the amount of input forces needed by the pilot. The three surface aircraft is another configuration, featuring a front pitch control surface while being devoid of elevators at the tail. Canard aircraft are also used for some aircraft models, using a small wing that is placed upwards of the main wing. For these aircraft, the main wings serve as the stabilizing surface. The last type, the tailless aircraft, does not include a separate horizontal stabilizer, instead placing the surface on the main wing itself and is specifically engineered so that the aerodynamic center is behind the center of gravity.
Vertical stabilizers, on the other hand, are placed on many aircraft in order to provide stability and control to the yaw, or directional, aspect during flight operations. Typical vertical stabilizers contain a fixed fin and a moveable rudder near the rear edge. A vertical stabilizer on an aircraft is very important for when encountering horizontal wind as it allows the aircraft to turn into the wind instead of along the same direction. Vertical stabilizer size is typically dependent on multiple factors, and these include the geometry of the fuselage, rotating propellers, and engine nacelles. As compared to the horizontal stabilizer that may be present in different forms or fulfilled by various parts, an aircraft that lacks a vertical stabilizer is fairly unmaneuverable.
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