The fuselage is one of the most important parts of aircraft, serving as the body that holds passengers and cargo. In fact, for some aircraft, fuselages hold engines as well. While all fuselages feature a shell-like design, they are available in a broad range of types, some of which will be covered in this blog.
Also known as a truss structure, a truss is a common type of aircraft fuselage. Typically used for small and lightweight airplanes, trusses feature steel trusses that are welded together to form a frame. This frame appears as an array of triangles similar to a crane tower, and the frame is encapsulated in steel sheets or other durable materials.
Though truss fuselages have been around for more than a century, little has changed in terms of their design and functionality. Furthermore, this design has remained a popular choice for small-engine aircraft as it is easy to assemble, strong, and cost-effective.
The next fuselage type is a monocoque which is characterized by the use of an exterior surface as the primary structure. This structure is different from the frame-based design present in truss fuselages. In some cases, monocoques may have a frame, but generally their primary structure will consist of an exterior surface. This aerodynamic structure is achieved using molded plywood, but this has been modernized by utilizing fiberglass and other composites.
Found in military, commercial, and civilian airplanes, monocoque fuselages are widely used by aircraft engineers. Monocoque fuselages are often preferred over their counterparts due to their high strength, lightweight characteristics, and increased internal volume potential. However, it is important to note that this type does have one major drawback as small dents can greatly weaken the structure since the main frame is only composed of an exterior surface.
In addition to monocoques, semi-monocoques are a widely used variation of fuselage. Semi-monocoques are actually the most common type of fuselage implemented in aluminum-based airplanes. It is defined by its cross-section frame design that is joined together with sheets of aluminum called stringers. The stringers are affixed to the cross-section frame with the use of rivets and/or adhesives. Once aligned and in position, the sheets and cross-section form the fuselage. The greatest advantage of semi-monocoques lies in the security the stringers provide, allowing stress to be transferred from the skin of the aircraft to the structural reinforcement.
The last fuselage type that will be covered are geodesic airplane fuselages. Geodesic fuselages feature a basket-like, woven construction and consist of metal or synthetic materials that are angled together. Pioneered by British aeronautical engineer Barnes Wallis in the 1930s, some of the first airplanes incorporated geodesic fuselages due to their durable design.
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