2.1.1: Fixed wing aircraft
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A first division arises if we distinguish those fixed-wing aircraft with engines from those without engines.
Figure 2.3: Gliders.
A glider is an aircraft whose flight does not depend on an engine. The most common varieties use the component of their weight to descent while they exploit meteorological phenomena (such thermal gradients and wind deflections) to maintain or even gain height. Other gliders use a tow powered aircraft to ascent. Gliders are principally used for the air sports of gliding, hang gliding and paragliding, or simply as leisure time for private pilots. See Figure 2.3.
Aerodynes with fixed-wing and provided with a power plant are known as airplanes1. An exhaustive taxonomy of airplanes will not be given, since there exist many particularities. Instead, a brief sketch of the fundamentals which determine the design of an aircraft will be drawn. The fundamental variables that must be taken into account for airplane design are: mission, velocity range, and technological solution to satisfy the needs of the mission.
The configuration of the aircraft depends on the aerodynamic properties to fly in a determined regime (low subsonic, high subsonic, supersonic). In fact, the general configuration of the aircraft depends upon the layout of the wing, the fuselage, stabilizers, and power plant. This four elements, which are enough to distinguish, grosso modo, one configuration from another, are designed according to the aerodynamic properties.
Then one possible classification is according to its configuration. However, due to different technological solutions that might have been adopted, airplanes with the same mission, could have different configurations. This is the reason why it seems more appropriate to classify airplanes attending at its mission.
Two fundamental branches exist: military airplanes and civilian airplanes.
Figure 2.4: Military aircraft types.
The most usual military missions are: surveillance, recognition, bombing, combat, transportation, or training. For instance, a combat airplane must flight in supersonic regime and perform sharp maneuvers. Figure 2.4 shows some examples of military aircraft.
Figure 2.5: Types of civilian transportation aircraft.
In the civil framework, the most common airplanes are those dedicated to the transportation of people in different segments (business jets, regional transportation, medium-haul transportation, and long-haul transportation). Other civil uses are also derived to civil aviation such fire extinction, photogrametric activities, etc. Figure 2.5 shows some examples of civilian aircraft.
1. Also referred to as aircraft. From now on, when we referred to an aircraft, we mean an aerodyne with fixed-wing and provided with a power plant.