What is a Canard?

Mary McMahon

In the world of aircraft, a canard is a plane with small, horizontal stabilizers located in front of the main stabilizing wing. The term is also used to refer to the stabilizer itself. The word “canard” is French for “duck” and is said to be a reference to the somewhat ducklike appearance of early aircraft with this design. Numerous aircraft of all shapes and sizes designed for an assortment of applications use this body and wing style.

Woman posing
Woman posing

The canard looks like a miniature wing and can be located very close to the front of the plane, often directly behind the flight deck. The size and shape vary, depending on design, and there is some debate about the best form for these small airfoils to take. Generally, the best design depends on how the plane will be used, as planes have different end applications, ranging from needing to be fast and maneuverable for aerial combat to needing to be stable and capable of long haul trips for commercial airliners.

The canard increases the lift of the aircraft and also provides more control over the plane while in flight. These can both be advantages for some kinds of plane designs. Some people favor aircraft of this design in stalls and various aerial maneuvers because of the increased control. Disadvantages include increased aircraft weight and more visibility as a radar target, a problem for military planes attempting to avoid detection during flight.

Like other aircraft components, the canard is considered early on in the design as engineers decide on the best plane for the application. Models are created and tested, and computer modeling is also used to see how the plane's behavior will change as components are moved and adjusted. The ability to create very advanced predictive modeling allows for precision designs, where the plane is designed for optimal efficiency in the intended setting and can be virtually tested in a range of conditions.

In the process of flight training, pilots are taught about the different classes of planes they will be able to fly on a given flight certificate, so they can learn more about how these planes handle in the air. Training can be provided on a variety of models to give people a chance to work with different aircraft under the supervision of a flight instructor, who can provide advice and assistance as the pilot gets familiar with how to handle and operate the aircraft.

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