What Are the Basic Aircraft Fundamentals & Flight Principles?

There are many basic aircraft fundamentals and principles of flight that not only pilots must master, but aircraft maintenance technicians need to learn about as well. The knowledge of flight fundamentals and principles can be obtained through an aircraft maintenance technician training program.

Why Does an Aircraft Maintenance Technician Need to Know Flight Theory?

When training to become an aircraft maintenance technician, it’s important to learn the fundamentals, principles and forces of flight. In addition to hands-on training with actual aircraft, students in MIAT College of Technology’s Aviation Maintenance Technology Program learn about flight theory. Understanding the theory and science behind flight can help you make informed decisions when maintaining aircraft, making repairs or checking for flaws.1

Aircraft maintenance technicians are responsible for the airworthiness of the aircraft, making sure the engine, rotors, landing gear and other features work safely. This will keep both passengers and aircraft safe. So, what are some of the basic aircraft fundamentals?

What Are the Basic Aircraft Fundamentals?

The basic aircraft fundamentals that an aircraft mechanic will need to know include:

Preflight Check – This is when the aircraft mechanic and/or pilot takes a cursory look around the aircraft, following a checklist. For example, they may check for things like loose seams, cracks, fuel level or low tire pressure. The pilot will also complete airport paperwork and submit a flight plan. The pilot must also legally offer a safety briefing for passengers, in the case of an emergency.

Takeoff – This is the part of the flight when the aircraft rolls down the runway and leaves the ground, becoming airborne. Before takeoff can occur, the aircraft must taxi down the runway. Taxing helps the pilot test the steering of the aircraft. The aircraft will then accelerate down the runway until it has sufficient lift to become airborne. Leaving the ground at too low a speed can cause the aircraft to stall. During liftoff, the pilot makes sure the aircraft is climbing at the correct angle and airspeed.

Straight-and-Level Flight – An aircraft is adhering to straight and level flight if it maintains a constant heading and altitude. When done correctly, the airspeed is constant, the altitude indicator is level, the altimeter does not move, the turn coordinator reads that the wings are level with the ball in the center, the heading indicator does not move, and the vertical speed indicator reads “no climb.”

Turns – This occurs when the aircraft is banked, and the wings produce lift perpendicular to the wingspan of the plane. During a turn, the lift offsets the weight of the plane.

Climbs – Involves an increase of the altitude of an aircraft. For an aircraft to climb, the thrust must be equal to its drag plus the rearward component of weight.

Descents – Involve the aircraft losing altitude without gaining excessive airspeed while controlling the rate of descent with pitch attitude. The calculation to identify the distance required for descent to landing is three times the height of the aircraft.

Landing – Starts with the aircraft crossing the approach end of the landing runway and ends with the aircraft exiting the landing runway.

What Are the Principles of Flight?

For flight, an aircraft’s lift must balance its weight, and thrust must exceed drag. An aircraft uses the wings for lift and the engines for thrust. An aircraft mechanic needs to know the following about the principles of flight.

Lift – The upward force on the wing acting perpendicular to both the relative wind and the aircraft’s lateral axis. During flight, lift opposes the downward force of weight.

Gravitational forces and weight – The combined load of the aircraft, crew, fuel, passengers and cargo. Weight pulls the aircraft downward due to G-forces.

Thrust – The forward force of the aircraft produced by an engine, propeller or rotor. For an aircraft to move forward, thrust must be greater than drag. The aircraft continues to move, gaining speed until thrust and drag are equal.

Drag – A force that resists movement on an aircraft in flight.

What Are Some Additional Forces on an Aircraft During Flight?

There are many forces at play during flight. The forces on an aircraft that an aircraft mechanic needs to know include:

Acceleration – The measurement of G-forces. There are many types of acceleration during flight, including linear, radial and angular. Linear acceleration reflects a change of speed while flying in a straight line. Radial acceleration is a result of a change in direction. Angular acceleration occurs after a simultaneous change in both speed and direction are initiated.

Pitch – The rotation of an aircraft on a transverse axis.

Roll – The rotation of an aircraft on the longitudinal axis.

Yaw – The rotation of an aircraft on the vertical axis.

Turbulence – Caused when an aircraft flies through waves of air that are irregular. During periods of turbulence, an aircraft can drop or change altitude suddenly.

Wake vortices – The increase in pressure below the wing and a depression on the top of the airfoil cause wake vortices.

How Do You Become an Aircraft Maintenance Technician?

A great way to train to become an aircraft maintenance technician is by attending MIAT’s Aviation Maintenance Technology Program. Graduates of the program hold an associate of applied science degree in aviation maintenance technology. The program also prepares graduates to apply and test for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification exam that is necessary to work on aircraft.3

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the basic aircraft fundamentals and flight principles, it’s time to learn more about MIAT. If you’re interested in training to become an aircraft maintenance technician, MIAT can help. After more than 50 years in career education, MIAT has built an excellent reputation and strong working relationships with employers.1 Our Career Services staff will help match you with jobs that fit your knowledge and passion. Start pursuing a career today and begin your journey toward becoming an aircraft maintenance technician.

Want to Learn More?

At MIAT College of Technology, our aviation maintenance training focuses on teaching students the precision skills necessary to become FAA-certificated airframe and powerplant technicians. With the strong foundations we provide, our graduates are prepared to start exciting careers.2

To learn more about the Aviation Maintenance Technology Program and to explore if MIAT is right for you, fill out the form on this page. Contact us today if you are interested in training to become an aviation maintenance technician.



1MIAT is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

2For program outcome information and other disclosures, visit www.miat.edu/disclosures.

3MIAT’s aviation program prepares graduates to apply and test for FAA mechanic certification. Graduates who do not obtain certification may have fewer career opportunities. Some graduates get jobs other than aviation maintenance technician such as turbine or field technicians. MIAT is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment, salary, or FAA certification.