Why Do Aircraft Have Vertical Tail Fins?

Vertical tail fins provide control and stability to aircraft as air flows around them. Typically offering pilots command over the yaw axis, vertical tail fins also house a controllable rudder and a trim tab for fine-tuning during takeoff, cruise, and landing. Pilots achieve such maneuverability by using their foot pedals and auto flight systems. The shape and size of the fins are dependent on the type of flight and maneuvers the aircraft is intended to carry out. 

Aircraft have 3 axes that must be controlled when airborne, those of which include the roll, pitch, and yaw axis. The roll axis is controlled by the ailerons found on the wings, the pitch axis is controlled by elevators mounted on the rear horizontal stabilizers, and the yaw axis is controlled by the rudder located on the vertical stabilizer. Now that each axis has been outlined, the next section will cover how control and stability is achieved via the vertical tail fins in more detail. 

To have a smooth flight, pilots have to make sure the aircraft is stable. Unstable aircraft not only provide an uncomfortable ride to their passengers, but also increase the workload for pilots and aerodynamic stress on the airframe. As all aircraft have a center of gravity and one of the primary goals is to maintain the mass of the aircraft incredibly close to its center of gravity during flight, the pilot has to work around various factors, such as wind, turbulence, etc. 

This is where the vertical tail fins, or vertical stabilizers, come into play to keep the aircraft as close to its center of gravity in the yaw and roll axis. When air moves over the vertical tail fin, it helps counteract the forces of roll by acting like a sail. In terms of yaw, by keeping the nose pointing straight, the vertical tail fin acts like a weather cock you see on a barn roof.

For aircraft fitted with multiple engines on the wings, vertical tail fins are especially important. When both engines have increased power, they provide the same amount of thrust to both sides of the aircraft. However, if one loses power or stops abruptly, the thrust from the remaining engine can exert a turning force around the center of the aircraft. Pilots can use the vertical tail fin and its rudder to steer the nose in the opposite direction to offset the turning force of the engine, among other things. 

A majority of the control and maneuverability pilots possess is due to the rudder or rudders. These movable surfaces are used to deflect air and maneuver the aircraft nose in a particular direction. Working in a similar fashion to rudders on a boat, when the aircraft is traveling through the air, pilots and/or the autoflight systems must constantly adjust the rudder to keep the nose pointed in the desired direction.  

Aircraft trim is another important element to consider when talking about the vertical tail fins. Typically, trim tabs aid in the fine tuning of an aircraft control surface. They are found on the vertical tail fin, allowing pilots or the flight control system to adjust accordingly in order to keep the aircraft stable and on the right path. 

If you find yourself in need of vertical stabilizer parts, rudder components, aircraft tail support products, aircraft batteries, and more, rely on NSN Purchasing. NSN Purchasing is a leading distributor of aircraft parts, those of which are vetted for quality, reliability, and functionality. Kickoff the procurement process with a competitive quote and see how NSN Purchasing can serve as your strategic sourcing partner today!

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