The fuselage (from the French fuselé "spindle-shaped") is an aircraft's main body section that holds crew and passengers or cargo. In single-engine aircraft it will usually contain an engine, although in some amphibious aircraft the single engine is mounted on a pylon attached to the fuselage which in turn is used as a floating hull. The fuselage also serves to position control and stabilization surfaces in specific relationships to lifting surfaces, required for aircraft stability and maneuverability.
Geodetic structural elements were used by Barnes Wallis for British Vickers between the wars and into World War II to form the whole of the fuselage, including its aerodynamic shape. In this type of construction multiple flat strip stringers are wound about the formers in opposite spiral directions, forming a basket-like appearance. This proved to be light, strong, and rigid and had the advantage of being made almost entirely of wood. A similar construction using aluminum alloy was used in the Vickers Warwick with less materials than would be required for other structural types. The geodesic structure is also redundant and so can survive localized damage without catastrophic failure. A fabric covering over the structure completed the aerodynamic shell (see the Vickers Wellington for an example of a large warplane which uses this process). The logical evolution of this is the creation of fuselages using molded plywood, in which multiple sheets are laid with the grain in differing directions to give the monocoque type below.
This is the preferred method of constructing an all-aluminum fuselage. First, a series of frames in the shape of the fuselage cross sections are held in position on a rigid fixture, or jig. These frames are then joined with lightweight longitudinal elements called stringers. These are in turn covered with a skin of sheet aluminum, attached by riveting or by bonding with special adhesives. The fixture is then disassembled and removed from the completed fuselage shell, which is then fitted out with wiring, controls, and interior equipment such as seats and luggage bins. Most modern large aircraft are built using this technique, but use several large sections constructed in this fashion which are then joined with fasteners to form the complete fuselage. As the accuracy of the final product is determined largely by the costly fixture, this form is suitable for series production, where a large number of identical aircraft are to be produced. Early examples of this type include the Douglas Aircraft DC-2 and DC-3 civil aircraft and the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. Most metal light aircraft are constructed using this process.
Both monocoque and semi-monocoque are referred to as "stressed skin" structures as all or a portion of the external load (i.e. from wings and empennage, and from discrete masses such as the engine) is taken by the surface covering. In addition, all the load from internal pressurization is carried (as skin tension) by the external skin.
Conversely there have been a small number of aircraft designs which have no separate wing, but use the fuselage to generate lift. Examples include NASA's experimental lifting body designs and the Vought XF5U-1 Flying Flapjack.In semi-monocoque type most of the loads are carried by longerons and stringers a part of load is carried by skin.