What is Empennage?

Airplanes are extremely complex structures. In airplanes, many different parts come together and work in harmony. In this article, let’s look at the term Empennage. What is it? What part of the plane is it? And what does it do?

Empennage; It is the name of the part formed by the combination of many parts in the tail part of the aircraft. Sometimes the term Tail Assembly is used.

Tail assembly
Tail part of an Airplane

The word empennage is a word of French origin. The term derives from the French language verb empenner which means “to feather an arrow”. At this point, let’s bring to mind the arrows used in the game of darts or used as a combat tool in the history. There are some parts on the back end of these arrows that make them go straight and stable. The logic is quite similar.

Empennage 101:

  • Location: Found proudly at the rear of the fuselage, where the party ends (but the flying magic happens!).
  • Components: Two key players: the vertical stabilizer (that tall fin) for keeping things steady side-to-side, and the horizontal stabilizer (the smaller wings on the back) for pitch control, meaning climbing and diving like a pro.
  • Job description: Stability king! The empennage keeps the airplane balanced and prevents any unwanted wobbles during flight. It acts like a giant rudder, ensuring smooth sailing (literally) through the air.
  • Fun fact: The word “empennage” comes from the French verb “empenner,” which means “to feather an arrow.” And just like feathers guide an arrow, the empennage guides the mighty airplane.

What does it do?

Today, almost all airplanes have parts that we can call empennage. However, even a little bit of aircraft with no empennage – tailless have also been designed and manufactured (example: de Havilland DH 108). In addition, it is possible to talk about many different types of empennage due to the structural differences of the parts it contains.

de Havilland DH 108 - empennage
source: wikipedia-British government employee prior to 1956

Empennage basically provides stability to the aircraft. In that section, there are several control surfaces that control the Yaw-Pitch-Roll maneuvers. Thanks to these control surfaces, the aircraft is guided and a safe flight takes place.


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