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1950 B35 still operated by the National Test Pilot School at the Mojave Airport
The V-tail of a Belgian Air Force Fouga Magister.
An Ultraflight Lazair showing its inverted V-tail covered with translucent Tedlar

In aircraft, a V-tail (sometimes called a Butterfly tail) is an unconventional arrangement of the tail control surfaces that replaces the traditional fin and horizontal surfaces with two surfaces set in a V-shaped configuration when viewed from the front or rear of the aircraft. The rear of each surface is hinged, and these movable sections, sometimes called ruddervators, combine the tasks of the elevators and rudder.

The arrangement was invented by Polish engineer Jerzy Rudlicki in 1930, and first tested on a modified Hanriot H-28 trainer in 1931.


Design use

The V-tail has not been a popular choice for aircraft manufacturers. The most popular V-tailed aircraft in mass production was the Beechcraft Bonanza Model 35, often known as the V-tail Bonanza or simply V-Tail. Other examples include the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter, the Fouga Magister trainer, and the RQ-1 Predator UAV. The X-shaped tail surfaces of the experimental Lockheed XFV were essentially a V tail that extended both above and below the fuselage. Over 2000 Ultraflight Lazair ultralights were produced, all featuring an inverted V-tail.[1]


Ideally, with fewer surfaces than a conventional three-aerofoil tail or a T-tail, the V-tail is lighter, has less wetted surface area, and thus produces less drag. Unfortunately, often a larger surface area is required for the same performance and stability; the result is that usually there is no weight or drag advantage over a standard tail.

In modern day light jet general aviation aircraft such as the Cirrus Jet, Eclipse 400 or the unmanned aerial drone Global Hawk, the power plant is often placed outside the aircraft to protect the passengers and make certification easier. In such cases V-tails are used to avoid placing the vertical stabilizer in the exhaust of the engine, which would disrupt the flow of the exhaust reducing thrust, and wear on the stabilizer, possibly leading to damage over time.[2]


Combining the pitch and yaw controls is difficult and requires a more complex control system. The V-tail arrangement also places greater stress on the rear fuselage when pitching and yawing.

In the mid-1980s, the Federal Aviation Administration grounded the Beechcraft Bonanza due to safety concerns. While the Bonanza met the initial certification requirements, it had a history of fatal mid-air breakups during extreme stress, at a rate exceeding the accepted norm. The type was deemed airworthy and restrictions removed after Beechcraft issued a structural modification as an Airworthiness Directive.[3]


Ruddervators are the control surfaces on an airplane with a V-tail configuration. They are located at the trailing edge of each of the two airfoils making up the tail of the plane. As part of initial V-tail development Polish engineer Jerzy Rudlicki designed the first ruddervators in 1930. They were first tested on a modified Hanriot H-28 trainer in 1931.

The name derives from a combination of the word rudder and elevator. In a conventional aircraft tail configuration, the rudder provides yaw (horizontal) control and the elevator provides pitch (vertical) control.

Ruddevators provide the same control effect as conventional control surfaces, but through a more complex control system that actuates the control surfaces in unison. Yaw moving the nose to the the left is produced on an upright V tail by moving the pedals left which deflects the left-hand ruddervator down and left and the right-hand ruddervator up and left. The opposite produces yaw to the right. Pitch nose up is produced by moving the control column or stick back which deflects the left-hand ruddervator up and right and the right-hand ruddervator up and left. Pitch nose down is produced by moving the control column or stick forward which induces the opposite ruddervator movements.[4]

Ruddervators have also been used on some airships, such as the US Navy's N class blimps. Accurate pitch trimming of airships can be difficult and this configuration improves clearance beneath the tail.

See also


  1. ^ Hunt, Adam & Ruth Merkis-Hunt: Skeletal Remains, pages 64-70. Kitplanes Magazine, September 2000.
  2. ^ "Cirrus SJ50 Design Notes". Cirrus Design Corporation. 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-14.  
  3. ^ "FAA Airworthiness Directive 93-CE-37-AD as Amended". Federal Register:(Volume 68, Number 93)Docket No. 93-CE-37-AD; Amendment 39-13147; AD 94-20-04 R2. Federal Register. May 14, 2003.!OpenDocument&ExpandSection=1&Click=. Retrieved 2008-08-14.  
  4. ^ Eckalbar, John C. (1986). "Simple Aerodynamics Of The V-Tail". Retrieved 2008-08-13.  

External links



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