flying school

How do airplanes fly

Introduction

So, when you see an airplane zooming across the sky, have you wondered?. How do airplanes really fly?.

How does an 80 ton metal object manage to float in the sky?. Well I’m here to answer these questions. And if you haven’t wondered all these things, then start wondering. Lets first see the definition of aeroplane as per wikipedia-.

“An aeroplane (informally plane) is a powered, fixed-wing aircraft that is propelled forward by thrust from a jet engine, propeller or rocket engine.”

Well, the above definition is simple right, aeroplane moves forward with the help of its wings and the engine, thats what it means.

History of Airplane

The word airplane is derived from the French word, Aeroplane. It further comes from the greek word ‘aer’ or air, and ‘planus’ in latin. Also, in greek, ‘planos’ which means wandering. Many stories from Indian epics and antiquities involve flying and flights. As we all know, the Wright brothers were the first ones to conduct a “sustained and controlled heavier-than-air powered flight” in 1903. But there were people before them too.  Clement Ader constructed the ‘eole’ in 1886 ,a bat-like design run by a lightweight steam engine, with four cylinders driving a four-blade propeller. It flew uncontrolled for 50m length at a height of around 6 inches. There were many more who tried, failed and tried again. But flight has always intrigued and pushed humans.

Technicalities

airplane

So flight is governed is governed by 4 forces- thrust, drag, lift and weight. These four forces help the aircraft to fly. Lets first discuss these four forces.

Thrust: Thrust is a force that moves an aircraft in the direction of the motion. It can be created with a propeller, jet engine, or rocket.

Drag: Drag is the force that acts opposite to the direction of motion. It tends to slow an object. Drag is caused by friction and differences in air pressure. An example would be, if you put your hand out of a car window, while in motion, its pushed back.

Weight: Its the effect of gravity on any object, which pulls you down back on earth.

Lift: Now lift is the force that opposes gravity or weight and holds the aircraft up in the air. Lift is generated by every part of the aircraft. In case of the airplane, most of the lift is created by the wings.

How do the wings create lift?

How is lift created?. Its one of the important aspects you need to understand about flight. Let me try to make it as simple as possible. The picture you see on the side is the lateral cross-section of a wing. Now when the aircraft is in forward motion, air flows across the wings. With help of the design and also the control on the wing by the pilot, a situation is created in which the airflow in the upper section of the wing is faster than the airflow below. Now, due to this a higher pressure is exerted by the air below than above. To make it simpler, the air as it flows across the wing, exerts a pressure from below which causes the wings to be pushed upwards. This lift on the wing is something that can be controlled by pilots, changing its angle with respect to the incoming airflow.

Conclusion

I hope that through this article I have been able to educate you and also eliminate most of the misconceptions. I have tried to make it as simple as I possibly could in a brief manner. Thank-you for the time you took to read across. Feel free to contact us for further info and also you can mail me on sanjithkc@yahoo.com.

11 thoughts on “How do airplanes fly”

  1. There is a Venturi effect formed on top of the wing due to the curvature of the aero foil. The air pressure decrease at the top of the wing which causes a suction which cause 60% of the lift. The pressure below the wing only cause 30%lift.

      1. True. And if the angle of attack of the aerofoil is too high, there will be no lift. No matter how high the pressure. The wing will be in a stalling configuration.

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