Aircraft Construction: How are airplanes made?

Aviation Facilities | June 28, 2018

An airplane is a powered aircraft that is propelled forward in the air by thrust from an engine. We all know that, but how do we come to this stage? How are airplanes made?

Are airplanes mass produced? Does the factory produce hundreds of airplanes at the same time like small appliances? Or does it produce one airplane at a time like handmade antiques? Or is the truth a mixture of both statements?

It takes several stages of design and manufacturing to construct something this huge and has the ability to fly in the skies. Let’s take a look at those stages together and learn how are airplanes made.

How are airplanes made: The design stage


The objectives and specifications of the aircraft are established during the design and planning process.

The first step is using drawings and equations. Computers are used by companies during this stage to draw and plan the design.

Then comes the simulation stage, computers are used again to do initial simulations of the aircraft. After that small models of all the design or just certain parts of the plane are made and tested in wind tunnels to tests and experience its aerodynamics.

The design and planning stage can take up to four years.

How are airplanes made: The construction stage


An airplane comprises a number of major components, such as fuselage, wings, empennage, undercarriage and one or more engines.

Each and every one of these components consists of thousands of small parts. The smaller parts are constructed individually and then put together.

When two or more components need to be joined together by welding for an airplane, the process must meet the most strict and specific safety regulations and standards. The National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program (Nadcap) sets global requirements for quality, quality management and quality assurance for all aircraft construction.

Very few companies around the world produce airplanes on a large scale. But aircraft construction is a process that usually involves numerous other companies and plants in addition to the main manufacturing company.

The other companies oftentimes produce the components that go into the plane. Or just produce the parts that go into making the major components. A company for instance can be responsible for producing airplane windows. And as this process is not limited to companies in the same city as the manufacturing plant, or even the same country, sometimes airplane parts can come from all over the world.

How are airplanes made: The assembly stage


The finished and inspected parts are sent to the main plant of the plane company, where the production line is located. The parts are now ready to be joined together to form an airplane.

Sometimes there are production lines dedicated to the assembly of certain parts of the plane, especially the wings and the fuselage in case of very large planes.

After the whole airplane is put together, it is thoroughly inspected to search for any imperfections or defects.

After the inspectors grant their approval, the plane is put through a series of flight tests to assure that all its systems are working properly and that the plane works smoothly without a hitch.

But that is not the final stage, after passing all these tests, the plane is now ready to receive the "final touchups"  which may include internal configuration or painting, or any cosmetic work.

After this stage the airplane is finally ready to be delivered to the customer.