Vertical stabilizer

Vertical stabilizer

Boeing B-29 Superfortress showing conventional single vertical stabilizer]

The vertical stabilizers, or fins, of aircraft, missiles or bombs are typically found on the aft end of the fuselage or body, and are intended to control yaw.

On aircraft, vertical stabilizers generally point upwards. These are also known as the vertical tail, and are part of an aircraft's empennage. The trailing end of the stabilizer is typically movable, and called the rudder; this allows the aircraft pilot to control yaw.

Often navigational radio or airband transceiver antennas are placed on or inside the vertical tail. In most aircraft with three jet engines, the vertical stabilizer houses the central engine or engine inlet duct, as in the Lockheed L-1011, McDonnell Douglas DC-10, McDonnell Douglas MD-11, Boeing 727, BAe Trident, Tupolev Tu-154, and the Yakovlev Yak-40.

Types of vertical stabilizers


Conventional tail

The vertical stabilizer is mounted exactly vertically, and the horizontal stabilizer is directly mounted to the empennage (the rear fuselage). This is the most common vertical stabilizer configuration.


A T-tail has the horizontal stabilizer mounted at the top of the vertical stabilizer. It is commonly seen on rear-engine aircraft, such as the Bombardier CRJ200 or Douglas DC-9, as well as the Silver Arrow small airplane, and most high performance sailplanes. The only operational fighter aircraft to use the T-tail configuration were the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo and the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter.

T-tails are often incorporated on configurations with fuselage mounted engines to keep the tail away from the engine exhaust plume.

T-tail aircraft are more susceptible to pitch-up at high angles of attack. This pitch-up results from a reduction in the horizontal tail's lifting capability as it passes through the wake of the wing at moderate angles of attack.

T-tails present structural challenges since the horizontal tail loads must be transmitted through the vertical tail.

Cruciform tail

The cruciform tail is arranged like a cross, the horizontal stabilizer intersects the vertical tail somewhere near the middle. The PBY Catalina uses this configuration.

Multiple stabilizers

Twin tail

Rather than a single vertical stabilizer, a twin tail has two. These are vertically arranged, and intersect or are mounted to the ends of the horizontal stabilizer. The Beechcraft Model 18 and many modern military aircraft such as the American F-14, F-15(left), and F-18 use this configuration. The F-18 and F-22 Raptor have tailfins that are canted outward, to the point that they have some authority as horizontal control surfaces, both aircraft are designed to deflect their rudders inward during takeoff to increase pitching moment.

Triple tail

A variation on the twin tail, it has three vertical stabilizers. The best example of this configuration is the Lockheed Constellation. On the Constellation it was done to give the airplane maximum vertical stabilizer area, but keep the overall height low enough so that it could fit into maintenance hangars.


A V-tail has no distinct vertical or horizontal stabilizers. Rather, they are merged into control surfaces known as ruddervators which control both pitch and yaw. The arrangement looks like the letter V, and is also known as a "butterfly tail". The Beechcraft Bonanza Model 35 uses this configuration, as does the F-117 Nighthawk, and many of Richard Schreder's HP series of homebuilt gliders.


Winglets served double duty on Burt Rutan's rear wing forward canard pusher configuration VariEze and Long-EZ, acting as both a wingtip device and a vertical stabilizer. Several other derivatives of these and other similar aircraft use this design element.



Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • vertical stabilizer — noun a stabilizer that is part of the vertical tail structure of an airplane • Syn: ↑vertical stabiliser, ↑vertical fin, ↑tail fin, ↑tailfin • Hypernyms: ↑stabilizer • Part Holonyms: ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • vertical stabilizer — Aeron. the fixed vertical surface of an aircraft empennage, to which the rudder is hinged. Also called fin, vertical fin. * * * …   Universalium

  • vertical stabilizer — n. stabilizer that is part of an airplane empennage …   English contemporary dictionary

  • vertical stabilizer — noun The fin on the tail of an aircraft; it includes the rudder on its trailing edge …   Wiktionary

  • vertical stabilizer — noun US an aircraft s tail fin …   English new terms dictionary

  • Vertical Stabilizer —    The tail of a ship …   The writer's dictionary of science fiction, fantasy, horror and mythology

  • Stabilizer — (spelt stabiliser in UK English) may mean:* Stabilizer (aircraft), surfaces to help keep aircraft under control * Stabilizer (ship), fins on ships to counteract roll * Stabilizer (Music Breakbeat UK), UK based breakbeat producer * Stabilizer… …   Wikipedia

  • Stabilizer (aircraft) — For aircraft, the horizontal stabilizer or tailplane is a fixed or adjustable surface from which an elevator may be hinged. In some aircraft models (mostly jets), the entire horizontal stabilizer rotates and functions as an elevator. This… …   Wikipedia

  • vertical fin — noun a stabilizer that is part of the vertical tail structure of an airplane • Syn: ↑vertical stabilizer, ↑vertical stabiliser, ↑tail fin, ↑tailfin • Hypernyms: ↑stabilizer • Part Holonyms: ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • vertical stabiliser — noun a stabilizer that is part of the vertical tail structure of an airplane • Syn: ↑vertical stabilizer, ↑vertical fin, ↑tail fin, ↑tailfin • Hypernyms: ↑stabilizer • Part Holonyms: ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”