The Aircraft Fuselage and Its Common Types

Within the realm of aviation, the fuselage is the structure which will contain the crew, passengers, and cargo. Additionally, fuselages also act as a connection point for the cockpit, wings, tail, and other various structures to be attached. Over the years with significant aircraft engineering development, a number of fuselage designs have come about. As each type differs in materials used and general design, it can be beneficial to have a basic understanding of each.

The truss fuselage type is one which utilizes a rigid framework composed of beams, struts, and bars. With such structural elements, the fuselage can be assembled in a way that resists deformation under high loads and stresses. For the fuselage frame, steel tubing is welded together to create a truss that is well capable of handling tension and compression loads. For lightweight aircraft that are single-engine types, the truss fuselage frame may be produced from aluminum alloy, all of which is riveted or bolted into a single assembly. Cross-bracing is then put in place with solid rods or tubes. Once the general fuselage assembly has been made, it is covered with fabric.

Monocoque designs, also known as single shell fuselages, are those that mainly accommodate primary loads with the use of the skin. To create such structures, formers, frame assemblies, and bulkheads are attached together to form the general shape of the fuselage. By placing the structural components with the most weight at intervals, concentrated loads can be better managed. These loads typically source from the fitting points of wings, stabilizers, engines, and other structures. Without the use of other bracing elements, the skin of the fuselage is designed to be rigid enough to handle primary stresses. As a result, designers must be careful in balancing loads with strength limitations.

As the monocoque design often runs into weight limitations due to its heavy reliance on the fuselage skin for load bearing, the semi-monocoque design is the most widely used variation to this day. While maintaining the frame assemblies, formers, and bulkheads of the monocoque design, the semi-monocoque design adds reinforcement with the implementation of longerons. Longerons are longitudinal structures that are placed across multiple frame members, ensuring that the skin can better accommodate bending forces. Generally, these structures are constructed from aluminum alloy. Such assemblies also utilize stringers, those of which are a lighter longitudinal structure that may be made into various shapes. Stringers are often composed of aluminum, and they are beneficial for giving shape to the skin for attachments.

As many aircraft are often charged with the transportation of passengers and individuals, the pressurization of fuselages is quite common. To do this, air is pumped into the cabin during the takeoff procedure, establishing a pressure difference once the aircraft reaches higher altitudes. As pressurization can add increased stress to the fuselage structure, aircraft utilizing such systems must be designed to take on metal fatigue, impact, and other various stresses. Generally, the semi-monocoque design is used when an aircraft is to be pressurized, and extensive inspections are required for remedying any damage or issues over time.

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December 1, 2022

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