Here's Why Airplanes Have Engines On The Wings Or On The Tail

I’ve seen normally friendly and warm Jalopnik writers come to clumsy, ineffective blows over the concept of car engine location. I came this close to poisoning another writer’s coffee after I heard them say something disparaging about rear engines, for example. It seems that the world of airplanes has some similar issues! There’s two major places airliners place their engines, and this video is one of the best explainers of why.

The two most common places for airliners to mount jet engines are under the wings or at the rear of the aircraft. I’m sure anyone who’s been to an airport has noticed this. The tradeoffs for each location are pretty fascinating, and, while this video by Mentour Pilot is pretty long, it’s very informative. Here, watch:

In case you’re seconds away from buying your first airliner and don’t have time to watch the video, here’s a quick pro/con breakdown of the two types:

Wing Mount

Pro: Much easier engine access for service, can mount more and/or bigger engines, less structural reinforcing needed, shorter fuel lines, safer in case of engine fire

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Con: High noise levels, susceptible to ground/foreign objects/debris damage, requires larger rudder (in case one engine is lost)

Rear Mount

Pro: Quieter operation (from inside cabin), less likely to take in debris/foreign objects, more suitable to more kinds of runways/airstrips, can reverse aircraft on ground

Con: Harder to access for maintenance, requires more structural support and longer fuel lines, more dangerous in case of fire

There’s more in the video, of course, including much more detail about handling characteristics of each type of engine mounting.

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It’s really interesting! Hearing a pilot talk about how planes handle makes aviation much more familiar to us ground-based gearheads.

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)