top of page

In the Cockpit

So you've submitted a flight plan; you've called the tower for clearance; you know you have 80,000lbs of thrust and a wingspan of 99ft; you've lit engine 1 of your Vulcan so you now have flames leaping around the vicinity of thousands of litres of highly flammable liquid. So far so good. You know what you're doing, right? Check here.
Aeroplane Parts & Functions


Aeroplane Adventures by Leona Cobham
Pitch, Roll & Yaw


Aeroplane Adventures by Leona Cobham
In the Cockpit: An A-Z


Ailerons: These control the roll of an aeroplane. They are attached to the trailing edge of each wing. This results in the aeroplane rolling to one side or the other. Unwanted or 'adverse' yaw can be countered by the fin rudder.

Aircraft carrier: A ship that serves as an airbase; it has a flight deck where aeroplanes and helicopters can land and take off. The first aircraft carriers were wooden ships used to deploy air balloons. Only certain types of aeroplane can land on aircraft carriers as there is limited space for take- off and landing.

Arresting gear / trip wire / capture system: 
A mechanical system used to rapidly decelerate an aircraft as it lands on the deck of the aircraft carrier. Several steel wire ropes laid across the aircraft landing area catch a special hook on the tail of the aeroplane to slow it down.

Aeroplane Adventures by Leona Cobham

Canopy: Transparent enclosure over the cockpit.

Capture system: See Arresting gear.

Cruising altitude: The height in the sky which an aeroplane holds for most of its flight.

Delta wing: A wing shaped in the form of a triangle. Aeroplanes with a delta wing don’t usually have a separate tail wing so the ailerons and elevators are combined onto one control surface called an elevon.

Downwind/Upwind: Downwind is the direction the wind is going in and upwind is the direction the wind is coming from. If the wind is blowing from the northwest and blowing toward the southeast, then the upwind direction is northwest and the downwind direction is southeast.

Aeroplane Adventures by Leona Cobham

Elevators: These influence the pitch, that is, the climb of the aeroplane. Elevators are usually on the tail wing of an aircraft. Changing the pitch means changing the direction of the nose of the aeroplane up or down. If it points up more, the way air passes under the aeroplane’s wings provides more lift making it go upwards. If the nose of the aeroplane drops, this reduces the lift provided by the air under the wings, and the aeroplane will start to accelerate downwards. These effects can be altered by an aeroplane changing its speed. Elevators are a primary control surface.

Elliptical wing: The elliptical shape of a Spitfire’s wing was developed by Reginald Mitchell for the British manufacturer, Supermarine, during the 1920s and 1930s. It was a semi-elliptical wing meaning just one edge was curved. This curvature allowed for a very thin wing to reduce drag but widening out nearer the root to accommodate a retracted undercarriage and guns. A similar elliptical wing had been designed by Heinkel but was refined and developed by Mitchell.


Look out for the distinctive wing shape in the drawings of Spif in this book.

Fin rudder: This controls the rotation of the aeroplane, that is, the yaw. It is not used for steering but for overcoming unwanted yaw. It is a primary control surface.

Fuselage: An aircraft’s main body section holding crew, passengers or cargo.

Hangar: A large building shaped to house aeroplanes.

Aeroplane Adventures by Leona Cobham

Landing gear: The structure under an aeroplane that holds the wheels. In modern aeroplanes, this is usually retractable but in older ones, it’s fixed in place.

Mach 1: The speed of sound: 761.2 mph. Sometimes called the sound barrier. A “supersonic” aircraft is able to fly faster than the speed of sound. An aircraft flying at Mach 2 is flying at twice the speed that sound travels in air.


This picture shows an F-18 Hornet forming a vapour cone as it approaches Mach 1.

Aeroplane Adventures

Mach 2: See Mach 1.

Pitch: How much the nose is pointing up or down.

Primary control surfaces: These are the surfaces of an aeroplane which can be adjusted to control an aeroplane’s flight. They are the ailerons, the elevators and the rudder.

Retractable wings: An F-14 Tomcat can fold in its wings for the optimal sweep angle given its speed.

Roll: The tilt of an aeroplane from side to side.

Sound barrier: See Mach 1.

Speed of sound: See Mach 1.

Speed tape: This gets its name from its stickiness, which can keep the tape in place on an aeroplane at high speeds. Made from an aluminium pressure-sensitive material, it is used to perform minor repairs on an aeroplane’s fuselage or wings.

Stern: The stern is the back or aft of an aeroplane, as opposed to the bow or foremost part, which is the front. 

Throttle: A throttle controls the flow of fuel or power to the engine.

Undercarriage: See Landing gear.

Vapour trail: A vapour trail, condensation trail, or contrail is the stream of cloud visible behind an aeroplane. The hot, humid exhaust from jet engines mixes with the air, which is at a lower temperature and pressure, and this causes it to condense.

Yaw: A change in direction from left to right on a horizontal plane.

Start your adventure today!

bottom of page