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What is a Fuselage?

Mary McMahon
Updated: May 23, 2024

A fuselage is the body of an aircraft, which houses passengers, cargo, and usually the pilots of the craft as well. Fuselages vary widely in shape, size, and style, depending on the purpose of the aircraft that they are attached to. They are hollowed out to reduce the overall weight of the craft, and they provide the structural framework to which the wings, tail, and other features are attached. If you have ever flown in an aircraft, chances are that you have been inside a fuselage.

The word comes from the French fuselé, which means “spindle shaped,” a reference to the classic cylindrical fuselage used to produce commercial aircraft like the Boeing company's 7-series. Construction of a fuselage starts with assembling a framework which accounts for specific needs in the plane design, and then covering the framework with a lightweight metallic skin. The plane may be insulated to help control the temperature inside, and then the inside of the fuselage is fitted out in accordance with the plane's purpose.

In a passenger plane, for example, the fuselage is divided into a cargo section and a passenger section. The passenger section is fitted with seats, temperature control devices, and other equipment needed to make the flight more comfortable, such as bathrooms and kitchens for preparing meals. On a cargo plane, the inside is usually less finished, since the plane is only used for packages, not for living organisms.

The aerodynamics of a fuselage can vary. For example, on a fighter jet, the fuselage is made extremely sleek, to allow the plane to fly more quickly. Smaller personal planes might have less sleek fuselages since speed is not as important. Some commercial aircraft have very bulky fuselages with projections to accommodate the pilots and first class passengers, while others are more streamlined since they are designed for quick commutes.

In some cases, a plane lacks a fuselage altogether, although this is rare. So-called flying wing aircraft like stealth bombers, drones, and spy planes do not have a fuselage, since they are built from a single main wing. Flying wing aircraft are built by several military contractors to accommodate special needs, and there has been some debate over how efficient these craft really are. The lack of a fuselage certainly makes a flying wing aircraft much lighter, but these planes can be difficult to control without the stabilizing tail installed on a more traditional aircraft.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WikiMotors researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Izzy78 — On Aug 01, 2011

A transoceanic flight can take several hours and from experience every passenger on board is not comfortable by the end regardless of what type of plane they fly in.

Some people prefer to be a little cramped when they fly for a couple hours, and some regardless of the flight prefer the extra room and feel like it provides them comfort in an enclosed environment. These preferences should be taken into account when buying a ticket.

The issue of whether one prefers to fly in a narrow body or a wide body is simply a matter of preference in regards to comfort. Some people don't mind either and have no preference.

By Emilski — On Jul 31, 2011

@jmc88 I understand what you mean by wide body plane fuselages being more comfortable than narrow body fuselages. I will say that if the flight is only a couple of hours, and not something long like a trans-Atlantic flight, then it really does not matter to me which type of plane I fly in.

However, on a long, several hour flight it does get very cramped on a narrow body plane and I do prefer the extra room on a wide body plane in this situation.

By jmc88 — On Jul 30, 2011

As a frequent flyer I have to say that regarding fuselages I prefer the wide body planes. The fuselage in wide body planes have 2 aisles instead of 1 and provide more room for the commercial flyer.

Through my experience the narrow body planes, with their one aisle, are a lot more cramped than the wide body and provide for a less enjoyable flying experience.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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