What is the tail on the back of the plane for?

Your question of the month in January (2015)
Sam, 11 years old

We already answered how such a heavy machine such as a plane is able to fly in our kid's question “How can planes take off even though they are so heavy?“. Once the plane is already in the air, it has to be controlled of course. There are several devices on or in the plane that make this possible.

At the back of the plane, the so-called tail, is the stabilizer. This is what the surfaces that help stabilise the plane while it is in flight are called. These include the elevator mounted on the side of the tailplane and the rudder attached to the side fin.

The pilot operates the elevator with his control stick. If he pulls the stick towards him, the elevator moves up and the plane flies even higher in the air. If he pushes the stick away from him, the plane descends again.

The rudder steers the aircraft to the left or to the right and it is operated by foot pedals. If the pilot steps on the left pedal, the plane flies to the left. If the pilot steps on the right pedal, the plane flies to the right.