Can You Ace This Aviation Quiz?


By: John Miller

5 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

For as long as humans have walked the Earth, they’ve dreamed of soaring into the skies like birds. We haven’t quite mastered jet packs yet, but in the meantime, we have access to everything from hot air balloons, to hang gliders, to P-51 Mustangs and a whole lot more. Along the way, we’ve developed an intricate understanding of the forces that make aircraft work (and sometimes crash). What do you really know about the aviation history and terms in this tough quiz?

In 1903, the Wright brothers finally found a way to make a heavier-than-air aircraft soar into the heavens. They could not have known just how profound their innovation would be — just a decade later, armies amassed tens of thousands of planes in World War I in an effort to kill each other more effectively.

The technological advances of wartime resulted in countless improvements to aircraft, spawning a new world of aviation. What do you know about the devices and tools that help planes fly?

Just getting planes off of the ground is a fascinating exercise in physics and mechanical engineering. Aircraft must somehow harness — or offset — Mother Nature’s principles in order to generate the forces necessary for controlled flight. Do you know just how modern aircraft safely leave the runway and achieve altitudes of thousands or even tens of thousand of feet in altitude?

Climb into the cockpit of our aviation quiz now! We’ll see if you can match wits with the eagles, or if you’ll crash and burn!

The era of aviation began with which type of craft?

In 1783, the French Montgolfier brothers launched a hot air balloon and flew just over a mile. The era of human aviation had begun.


What is the primary purpose of "air traffic control"?

Air traffic control’s primary purpose is to keep pilots and their planes away from one another. Otherwise, you know ... boom.


How do pilots know how fast they are traveling?

Pilots rely on airspeed indicators to understand how fast the plane is moving. The device may register speed in knots or MPH.


What’s a defining trait of a biplane?

Biplanes are planes with two sets of wings. They are unmistakable as they soar through skies filled mostly with planes that have just one set of wings.


True or false, were the Wright Brothers the first ever to put a heavier-than-air, controlled aircraft into the skies?

Several other inventors created variants of aircraft into flight before the Wright brothers. But thanks to their 1903 efforts, Orville and Wilbur really were the first to put a heaver-than-air, controlled plane into action.


Where would you find a "control tower"?

Control towers are the tall towers at airstrips across the world. There, air traffic controllers can better see the planes that they help guide in and out of the airport.


What’s the purpose of a "fighter" aircraft?

Fighter aircraft have one primary purpose — shooting down other aircraft. They are typically heavily armed with machine guns and missiles.


What is "general aviation"?

General aviation is an overarching term referring to all unscheduled, civil flights. It can refer to pilots out joyriding, hang gliders zooming from clifftops, or non-airline commercial air traffic.


What’s the purpose of an altimeter?

Altimeters are vital tools on aircraft. They note altitude, the plane’s distance from the ground.


“Airfoil" refers to which aspect of an aircraft?

The airfoil refers to the shape of the plane’s wings. As airfoils move through air (or any other fluid), they begin generating the forces necessary for flight.


Which force helps planes fly?

As airfoils move through a fluid, like air, they generate a force called lift. Lift helps planes get off the ground.


On which part of a plane would you find the "flaps"?

The flaps are the hinged flaps found on the wings. Pilots control the flaps to change the plane’s lift characteristics.


When did military forces begin using hot air balloons for reconnaissance purposes?

Just as soon as hot air balloons were proven to work, military generals wanted them for combat. Balloons offered high vantage points to scout enemy lines.


Which force counters thrust?

Drag — or air resistance — is essentially a type of friction. Aircraft are aerodynamically designed to reduce drag and increase engine efficiency.


True or false, do large airliners contribute to cloud formation?

Huge airliners that soar at tens of thousands of feet leave long contrails behind them. Those contrails do in fact help create high cirrus clouds.


The B-52 is a a famous example of which type of aircraft?

Since its introduction in the 1950s, the B-52 Stratofortress has been used for long-range bombing missions all over the world. Its heavy-duy construction and powerful engines mean it can carry 70,000 pounds of bombs.


If RPMs are too high, which part of the aircraft is affected?

RPMs is revolutions per minute, an engine speed indicator. Pilots who push their RPMs too high may ruin their engines and then wind up crashing the plane.


Which term indicates the direction a plane is pointed?

Heading refers to the direction a plane is pointed. Pilots who can’t figure out heading should probably give up flying before they wind up as part of a crater.


Where would you find the "jet stream"?

The jet stream is the series of powerful winds high above the ground. Pilots can use the jet stream to speed up their flights and save fuel ... or they may find themselves fighting fierce headwinds.


True or false, was the world’s first aviation fatality one of the Wright brothers?

It’s false. Five years after the Wright brothers pioneered controlled flight, Orville crashed a plane, killing his passenger, Thomas Selfridge -- now known as the world's first airplane fatality. Orville survived.


What do pilots scream while crashing a plane?

As the contrails turn to flames and a plane begins its inexorable death spiral toward terra firma, there’s one universal thing that all pilots scream: "Mayday!" It means, "I forgot to sign my will!"


Which term refers to the tilt of a plane’s nose?

“Pitch" is the term for the tilt of a plane’s nose. Amateur pilots create a pitch that aims their plane straight at the ground, which is why their careers are short-lived.


"ROC" refers to which aspect of flight?

ROC is rate of climb. It refers to the speed at which a plane is gaining or losing altitude, and it is often denoted by Feet Per Minute (FPM).


Flight recorders are commonly known as _____.

Flight recorders are black boxes. They record all of the plane’s system functions and pilot inputs, including the frenzied radio calls right before a crash.


Yaw changes _______.

The primary flight control behind yaw is the rudder, which points the plane left or right. Yaw is used to support pitch and roll, helping contribute to coordinated flight.


To get from a parking area to the runway, planes use a _____.

Planes "taxi" about the tarmac at an airfield. The taxiway is the paved strip from the parking area to the runway.


What’s an "aeronaut"?

Aeronauts are the men and women who fly lighter-than-air aircraft, like a balloon.


What device helps air traffic controllers identify planes?

Transponders are radio devices that send and receive signals. On a plane, they help air traffic controllers identify specific aircraft.


Which part of a plane controls "yaw"?

The rudder is a hinged vertical section on the tail of the plane that controls "yaw." It essentially helps change a plane's direction.


If a pilot yanks the stick to the left or right, he or she is executing a _____.

Rotating the plane on a longitudinal axis means "rolling" the plane. If your commercial airline pilot executes a roll, you should probably ask for a refund.


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