Fixed-Wing vs. Rotary-Wing Aircraft

Since the advent of powered flight, various types of aircraft have come about to fulfill particular needs and applications. While there are a wide variety of aircraft types available on the market, almost all can be categorized into one of two groups, those of which are fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. As the two types of aircraft widely differ in their design, method of flight, and general applicational use, it can be highly beneficial to have a basic understanding of each.

Fixed-Wing Aircraft

Fixed-wing aircraft are a common form of heavier-than-air flying machine, utilizing aero foil structures like wings to produce the lift necessary for remaining in the air. Fixed-wing aircraft are diverse in their types, common examples including airplanes, gliders, kites, and more. Despite such aircraft being known as fixed-wing types, their wings do not always have to be rigid to be included in the distinction. For example, hang gliders have more flexible wings, yet they are still considered to be in the same grouping as commercial airplanes. This is because aircraft are determined to be fixed-wing types if they utilize specially shaped wings to generate lift as a result of forward airspeed.

Fixed-wing aircraft are often broken up into various groups, each of which contain a variety of subtypes. For example, airplanes are the most common types, and they also include seaplanes, powered gliders, and ground effect vehicles. Meanwhile, sailplanes, military gliders, paragliders, and unmanned gliders are all types of fixed-wing gliders.

Rotary-Wing Aircraft

Rotary-wing aircraft differ greatly from fixed-wing aircraft in the method they use to generate lift, utilizing an assembly of rotor blades that spin around a vertical mast to produce lift. A rotary-wing aircraft may feature one or more rotors on their body, those of which always consist of several rotor blades placed on a single mast. There are a number of common rotary-wing aircraft types, those of which include helicopters, autogyros, and gyrodynes. With a rotor blade assembly and their method of generating lift, rotary-wing aircraft like helicopters often have the ability to conduct vertical takeoffs and landings. The blades of a rotary-wing aircraft are not always completely static, some featuring varying pitch angles that enable the pilot to adjust the angle of attack and lift.

As many fixed-wing aircraft produce lift from a set of spinning rotor blades, their method of control is different from a typical fixed-wing aircraft. As a result, prospective pilots will need to familiarize themselves with the cyclic pitch control, collective, anti-torque pedals, and throttle. Additionally, they will also need to properly learn how to hover, conduct forward flight, and execute autorotation. While many types of rotary-wing aircraft provide pilots with enhanced control and the ability to operate in more dense environments, they require specific training to ensure safety.


Whether you are interested in fixed-wing aircraft for long-distance passenger and cargo transportation or a rotary-wing aircraft for sightseeing or short-distance travel, NSN Orbit is your sourcing solution with countless items readily available for purchase. Whether you require products that are new, used, obsolete, or hard-to-find, we have you covered with unbeatable lead times and competitive pricing. Take the time to explore our website at your leisure or utilize our search engine and filters to rapidly narrow down results with ease.

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May 17, 2023
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