Flight occurs through a combination of the aircraft's forward speed and the lift generated by its wings. If the air
moving over the top of an aircraft’s wing is faster than the air passing beneath it lift is generated as the air
pressure on top of the wing is less than the pressure below.
By taking off into the wind aircraft can increase the lift generated by the wing. As the prevailing wind in the UK
is east / west most runways at UK airports face in those directions.
Once speed and lift are generated the pilot then controls an aircraft through the use of ailerons and elevators.
Ailerons are fitted to the back edge of each wing and turn the aircraft in flight. If a pilot wants to turn left they
move the control column in the cockpit to the left. This makes the aileron on the left wing go up and the aileron on
the right wing to go down. This changes the airflow over the wings and turns the aircraft to the left.
Elevators make an aircraft climb or descend and are fitted to the tail wings of the aircraft. If a pilot pushes the
control column forward this drops the elevator, the airflow change pushes the tail of the aircraft up and the nose
Before a new type of aircraft can
enter service it has to be approved by regulatory authorities. This
is called certification and is normally undertaken by the aviation authority in
the country that the aircraft is manufactured.
Boeing aircraft are American-built and
therefore certificated by the US Federal Aviation Administration; Airbus
aircraft are European-built and certificated by the European Union Aviation
Safety Agency (EASA), which undertakes certification work for EU nations.
To pass the certification process aircraft
must comply with a set of design requirements. These cover all aspects of the
aircraft: its engines; and the materials and components they are made from.
Once an aircraft is certificated it can be
sold to airlines and enter service. The original certification approval is
normally recognised automatically by other countries.
The certification is granted for the type of
aircraft. Each individual aircraft then has a certificate of airworthiness, the
equivalent of a car’s MOT, which is renewed every few years.
Manufacturers of aircraft and engines retain
responsibility for the certification and ongoing airworthiness. During an aircraft
or engines lifetime issues may develop or modifications may be required. The
manufacturer will take the lead on making these happen by working directly with
airlines. If the change is important the certificating regulator may also make it
a requirement by issuing an airworthiness notice. This will detail the change
or inspection required and can indicate a mandatory completion time.
Once an aircraft enters service with an airline
then the responsibility for its day to day safety is with the airline itself. This
will be overseen by its safety regulator (for UK airlines that is the UK CAA).
The safety regulator will licence and inspect an airline to check that it is
complying with safety requirements including the operation and maintenance
of its aircraft.
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