Are there some activities in research for replacing the vertical stabilizer with a turnable horizontal stabilizer? (flight direction stabilization like the birds)

  • $\begingroup$ The probably has been such research. However, birds have proven to be a bad model for manned flight. The problem with that concept you describe is that it is a cross between two approaches: (1) The surface approach to stability and (2) The variable shape approach to stability (used by birds). $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 4:37
  • $\begingroup$ related: aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/12055/… $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 11:41

2 Answers 2


There have been various (and of varying degrees of success) some flying wing designs that have made it into production with no vertical stabilizer. However they had no turnable horizontal stabilizer either. The B-2 Spirit comes to mind,

enter image description here (source)

The closest thing I can think of that has no proper vertical stabilizer but still does have an epenage is a V tail design, a variety of planes have been made with them over the years including the popular early Beech Bonanza models. enter image description here (source)

I am not sure of any planes that have ever been produced with such a tail nor any research projects on such a design but that does not preclude their existence.

A general note on aircraft research and design, the various flying wings and V tail planes built over the years have had issues and been met with hostility by some critics. This is not to imply that they are poor designs however the flying wing does have its share of instability inherent to the design. The V tail gained some negative reputation on the early Bo's because many of them crashed. However many people account this to low time pilots in overpowered (for the time) planes.

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    $\begingroup$ The Fouga-Magister had a V-tail, and has been used a long time by the national military aerobatic team (Patrouille de France) and other aerobatic groups, as well as for jet training. I believe the behavior of such tail must have been quite satisfactory for these uses. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ I thought ALL aircrafts needed a vertical stabilizer... How is the B-2 supposed to fly ? $\endgroup$
    – Matt
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 7:21
  • $\begingroup$ As far as I know. The design of the B2 is inherent unstable and will crash immediately, without it's computer-system which fixes the unstability through permanent interventions ("bird brain"). Therefore it uses a four time redundant fly-by-wire system. The control surfaces are always moving a around a little bit, even if the pilot is doing nothing (correct?).Turning off the electronics on a modern passenger jet is also not good, but you can survive. At least you will not drop out of the sky instantly, because their designed is stable and the jet will glide itself to some degree (correct?). $\endgroup$
    – Peter
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 9:04
  • $\begingroup$ The B2 photo shows the outboard split ailerons whose variable drag replaces the yaw force that a vertical rudder would provide. $\endgroup$
    – amI
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Matt: Carefully. $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 23:10

What you describe implies the use of artificially enhanced stability. There have been projects which did away with a vertical surface completely, lately to improve the low-observable characteristics. However, in each case you replace something that automatically produces a stabilizing effect with something that needs to be positioned actively in order to have a stabilizing effect. So far, the preference for safety has meant that active stability augmentation has not made inroads into regular aircraft - the added failure mode is simply not worth the gain in aerodynamic qualities.

enter image description here

An early example would be the Horten II motor glider (picture source)

enter image description here

A more recent example is the unmanned X-36 (picture source)

In both cases the designers simply left the vertical tail off and used other means for directional stability. Your proposed moveable tail surface has never been tried, as far as I know.

  • $\begingroup$ Is that a propeller at the rear center of the Horten? $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ @TomMcW: Yes, a fixed-pitch wooden propeller. The engine was a Hirth HM-60 with 60 hp. The Horten VII even had two propellers and two Argus As-10 C engine with 240 hp each. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 9:52

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