Glossary of Terms

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | L | M | N | P | R | S | T | U | V | W | Z

A

Aileron
A small hinged portion of an airplane’s wing, used to make an airplane roll, or turn around its long axis.
Airfoil
A surface, such as an airplane wing, shaped to produce more lift than resistance when driven through the air.
All-weather fighter
A radar-equipped jet fighter airplane which can operate at night or in the worst weather.
All-weather interceptor
A radar-equipped jet fighter airplane which can operate at night or in the worst weather.
Autogyro
An aircraft equipped with a rotating wing, or rotor, to sustain itself in the air, and a propeller to move forward.

B

Barnstormer
A pilot who, in the early years of aviation, gave airplane rides to people and performed aerobatics for a fee.
Bracing wire
A solid steel wire used to support the structure of an airplane’s wings or fuselage.
BCATP
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. An agreement which, during World War II, made Canada the heart of a huge Commonwealth aircrew training scheme.

C

Cabin pressurization
A mechanism used to maintain air pressure in an airplane’s sealed cabin at a level suitable for passengers.
Canard
An airplane designed to have its normal horizontal tail surface on the front rather than the rear of its fuselage.
Cantilevered
Is said of an airplane part, like an engine nacelle, which is rigidly supported at one end and free at the other.
Caster
To swivel or rotate slightly.
Centre-pod configuration
A type of airplane whose fairly short fuselage is not connected to the tail surfaces.
Cowling
A removable metal covering placed over and around an airplane’s engine(s).
Cross-over exhaust
A mechanism through which the exhaust from one side of an in-line engine is carried to the other.

D

Distinguished Flying Cross
A British decoration rewarding acts of bravery performed by officers and warrant officers while flying in combat.
Dope
A varnish like liquid applied to the fabric covering of an airplane to increase its strength and make it water proof.

E

Elevator
A small control surface hinged to the rear of the horizontal stabilizer and used to tilt an airplane up or down.
Engine cowl
A removable metal covering placed over and around an airplane’s engine.

F

Forward elevator
A control surface used to tilt an airplane up or down and mounted on the front rather than the rear of an airplane.
Free-blown
Is said of a piece of glass or plexiglass blown and shaped manually without the help of a mould.

G

Glider tug
An airplane, usually quite large, used to tow a military glider loaded with ground troops and equipment.
Great Depression
A severe economic crisis which began in the United States in 1929 and affected the world during the 1930s.

H

High-lift wing
A special type of wing capable of creating a lifting force greater than that of a conventional wing.

I

In-line engine
An engine in which the cylinders are mounted in a straight line or else in two, connected at an angle.

L

Laminar-flow wing
A specially designed wing whose shape creates less air resistance, or drag, than a conventional wing.
Lateral control
The ability to make an airplane roll, or turn around its long axis, according to its pilot’s wishes.
Leading and trailing edges
The foremost and rearmost edges of a wing.
Low-wing
Is said of an airplane in which the single set of wings is mounted at, or near, the bottom of its fuselage.

M

Magnetic survey
A search conducted by air to locate hidden metal deposits by making use of their effects on specially arranged magnets.

N

Nacelle
A shelter, enclosed or not and unconnected to the tail surfaces, where the crew sits.
NATO
A postwar alliance which integrated the armed forces of a number of Western nations in both Europe and North America.
Night lozenge
A night version of Germany’s printed camouflage scheme in which the coloured polygons were overprinted in black.
NORAD
North American Air Defence Command. A Canada United States agreement integrating the air defence networks of both countries.
Nose cowl
A removable metal covering placed over and around an airplane’s engine.

P

Presentation aircraft
A military airplane payed for by a person or group, which is then donated to an air force.
Pressurized
Is said of an airplane’s sealed cabin in which the air pressure is kept at a level suitable for passengers.
Propeller spinner
A coneshaped piece of an airplane, mounted on a propeller, which reduces air resistance, or drag.
Pusher
An airplane whose propeller(s) can be found behind its wings.
Pusher engine
An engine mounted behind an airplane’s wing(s) and whose propeller pushes rather pull it through the air.

R

Radial engine
A type of engine, usually air-cooled, whose cylinders are arranged like the spokes of a wheel.
Radome
A detachable nose cone made of plastic-type material, used to cover and protect an airplane’s radar antenna.
Ramjet
A type of jet engine with very few moving parts which consists of a specially shaped tube open at both ends.
Rate of roll
A measure of the speed with which an airplane can turn around its long axis, or roll.
Rocket-powered
Is said of an airplane powered by a rocket engine.
Rotary
An aircooled engine whose cylinders, arranged like the spokes of a wheel, rotate around a fixed crankshaft.
Rotary-engined
Is said of an airplane which has a rotary engine whose cylinders, arranged like a wheel’s spokes, turn around a fixed crankshaft.
Rotary-winged
Is said of an aircraft equipped with a rotating wing, or rotor, which resembles a huge horizontal propeller.
Rotor-head
A most important part of a rotary-winged aircraft, which includes the blades and rotor mechanism.

S

Service ceiling
The altitude above sea level beyond which an airplane can no longer climb more than 30 m (100 ft) per minute.
Slatted
Is said of a wing equipped with a leading-edge which can pop in or out at low speed, thus improving controllability.
Solid-propellant
A type of rocket fuel, in solid form, moulded into a solid block.
Sonobuoy
An airdropped buoy fitted with sensitive microphones and a radio, used to detect submarines running underwater.
Spar
A principal section of the wing structure of an airplane, going from tip to tip.
Stressed skin
A type of airplane outer covering, designed to carry the tension and compression forces encountered in flight.
Supercharged
Is said of an engine equipped with a pump designed to supply it with its necessary supply of air, at high altitude.
Supersonic
Is said of an airplane capable of exceeding the speed of sound, 1 060 km/h (660 mph) or so at high altitude.
Swept-wing
A wing in which both the leading and trailing edges are slanted backward, to reduce air resistance at high speed.

T

Tail-hook
A special hook mounted at the rear of a aircraft carrier-based airplane and used to bring it to a quick halt when landing.
Tandem-winged
Is said of an airplane with wings of similar size mounted one in front of the other, on pretty much the same level.
Target tug
An airplane used to tow objects, or targets, fired at by other airplanes or anti-aircraft guns for practice.
Tilt-wing
A wing designed to swivel up or down, thus making it possible for an airplane to take off and land vertically.
Tricycle configuration
A type of landing gear in which one set of wheels is placed well forward, under the nose of an airplane.
Tricycle landing gear
A type of landing gear in which one set of wheels is placed well forward, under the nose of an airplane.
Tricycle undercarriage
A type of landing gear in which one set of wheels is placed well forward, under the nose of an airplane.
Trim-tab
A small auxiliary surface hinged on an airplane’s control surfaces, used to bring it into balance or trim.
Turboprop
Is said of an airplane powered by a type of jet engine, the turboprop, equipped with a turbine-driven propeller.
Twin-boom configuration
A type of airplane whose tail surfaces were connected to its wings by two long fuselage-like structures.

U

Undercarriage strut
A part of an airplane’s structure, designed to resist distortion, which supports the landing gear.
Upper turret
A powered and revolving mechanism armed with machine guns to be mounted on top of an airplane’s fuselage.

V

Variable-pitch propeller
A engine-driven device, designed to drive an airplane forward, whose efficiency can be improved by turning its blades in midflight.
Victoria Cross
A British medal awarded to military personnel for acts of extreme bravery in the presence of an enemy.

W

Wheel pants
A piece of an airplane’s structure which envelops its wheels and reduces air resistance, or drag.
Wing spar
A principal section of the wing structure of an airplane, going from tip to tip.
Wing strut
A part of an airplane’s structure, bracing its wings and designed to resist distortion.
Wing tip
The outer end of an airplane’s wing.
Wing tip extension
Small section added to the end, or tip of a wing.
Wingtip
The outer end of an airplane’s wing.
Wing warping
A twisting of the tips of an airplane’s wings, up on one side and down on the other, used to make an airplane roll.

Z

Zeppelin
Named for its German inventor, this airship is controllable, powered, lighter than air, with a rigid structure.