In some twin propeller airplanes, there are two vertical stabilizers which are on the same line as the propellers.

Is this shape helpful in terms of efficiency?

Like this one (twin boom tail):

A Lockheed P-38 Lightning, with two propeller engines and a twin boom tail.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not really sure what you're asking. For example, the DHC-6 is a twin-engined prop plane with a single vertical stabilizer which is in the middle. The plane you've pictured is not a typical design so, if you're asking about twin-engine planes in general, it's not a good choice. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 14:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Stack Exchange! I think I understand your question, and I've edited it a bit to try to make it a little clearer. If this is not what you meant, please feel free to change it back. Thank you! $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 14:20
  • $\begingroup$ A better question would be, could this configuration be helpful to efficiency? Maybe if the vertical surfaces were designed to extract some of the energy left in the swirl of the propeller slipstream... $\endgroup$
    – MikeY
    Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ Typically, vertical control surfaces were used to avoid have one large control surface. Twin tail planes like that pictured are pretty uncommon when compared to all the single fuselage/single tail planes with an engine on each wing. $\endgroup$
    – CrossRoads
    Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 14:52

2 Answers 2


The vertical tailplane is dimensioned as a tail volume: total vertical area times the moment arm to the CoG, to tackle the following issues:

  • Control after engine failure.
  • Lateral Stability.
  • Crosswind landings.
  • Spin recovery.

The vertical tail is subject to side forces, and the aircraft structure must be able to withstand the resulting reaction forces. The fuselage is very suitable for absorbing these by applying counter-torque, and is the go-to place for mounting the fin.

A large, long fin has a relatively long moment arm, and it can be beneficial to divide the vertical tail into multiple surfaces, provided there are suitable mounting spots. And behold, the P-38 had two tail booms and a horizontal connection bar, and the natural mounting method is two fins each at the end of a boom.

The fins are indeed in the prop wash and this does help their efficiency - in straight flight. At a sideslip, large angle of attack or in a spin, the prop wash will be directed away from the vertical tails, and these will be dimensioned as if there was no prop wash at all.

  • $\begingroup$ What about p-factor? $\endgroup$
    – ROIMaison
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 9:42

Yes it is, but many designs are more stable with one large V stab in the middle.

Some fine Navy engineers took the B-24 Liberator and turned it it the Privateer, making long flights over the ocean easier on the pilots due to improved stability. The large V stab also plays an important role in avoiding "Dutch rolling tendencies", and, with its accompanying larger rudder, controlling side slip.

Putting control surfaces in the prop blast is an early form of directional control from thrust "fluid" flow, also seen in the V-2 rocket. Smaller fins in stronger flow, it works.

So a designer could consider all three, as in the Constellation, remembering Rule 1:



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