An aircraft is any machine capable of atmospheric flight. more...
Categories and classification
Aircraft fall into two broad categories:
Heavier than air
- Heavier than air aerodynes, including autogyros, helicopters and variants, and conventional fixed-wing aircraft: aeroplanes in Commonwealth English (excluding Canada), airplanes in North American English. Fixed-wing aircraft generally use an internal-combustion engine in the form of a piston engine (with a propeller) or a turbine engine (jet or turboprop), to provide thrust that moves the craft forward through the air. The movement of air over the airfoil produces lift that causes the aircraft to fly. Exceptions are gliders which have no engines and gain their thrust, initially, from winches or tugs and then from gravity and thermal currents. For a glider to maintain its forward speed it must descend in relation to the air (but not necessarily in relation to the ground). Helicopters and autogyros use a spinning rotor (a rotary wing) to provide lift; helicopters also use the rotor to provide thrust. The abbreviation VTOL is applied to aircraft other than helicopters that can take off or land vertically. STOL stands for Short Take Off and Landing. Mainly used internationally.
Lighter than air
- Lighter than air aerostats: hot air balloons and airships. Aerostats use buoyancy to float in the air in much the same manner as ships float on the water. In particular, these aircraft use a relatively low density gas such as helium, hydrogen or heated air, to displace the air around the craft. The distinction between a balloon and an airship is that an airship has some means of controlling both its forward motion and steering itself, while balloons are carried along with the wind.
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