Now, all alone, a wing with a high-powered engine would go crashing to the ground just about as fast as a lead weight. So, without delving into complex aerodynamic principles, here's how the other major elements of a plane work (with the help of a pilot, of course) to keep it in the air and on course:
Fuselage. The fuselage is the long, usually cylindrical body of the plane. It holds the passengers, crew, and cargo, and also serves to hold the various parts of the plane (tail, wings, etc.) together.
Tail wings. The tails of most planes consist of one vertical and two horizontal wings (also called horizontal and vertical stabilizers). The horizontal wing keeps the plane from jerking up and down. The vertical wing keeps the plane from swinging side to side.
Rudder. The rudder is a flap at the rear of the vertical tail wing that can move either right or left. Like the rudder of a ship, a plane's rudder helps steer it from side to side.
Elevator. The elevators are flaps at the rear edge of the horizontal tail wings that move up and down and help a plane ascend and descend.
Aileron. Located at the rear edge of the main wings, ailerons are flaps that move up and down to help keep the plane steady as well as steer it from side to side.
Flap. Like ailerons, flaps are located at the rear of the main wings, though generally closer to the fuselage. They help slow the plane down as it lands, and also help create more lift during takeoff.
Spoiler. Essentially flaps on the top surface of the main wings, spoilers also help steer the plane to the left or the right.
We don't recommend that you try to rig your car with propellers, but now that you understand the basic science behind flight, you might just be able to catch a few winks on your next red-eye.