Why Airplanes Fly

I am flying to Europe today! YEAH! Not my first flight by all means. I usually – and today too – am very skeptical about the whole “How on earth can this thing stay in the air?” idea. When flying I spend a fair amount of time holding on to my seat at take-off, looking at my fellow travellers, praying hard that our combined faith will make this whole charade work! For the rest of the 30 hour flight I am distracting myself by going through all 73 movies offered by the in-flight-entertainment.

So after only 4 hours of sleep – I decided to nip this question in the proverbial butt and search the internet for answer to why airplanes fly. And found this site from which I ‘stole’ the following. Bare with me, it’s a site for kids, just the level of physics I think I can comprehend! It says

“Airplanes fly because they are able to generate a force called Lift which normally moves the airplane upward. Lift is generated by the forward motion of the airplane through the air. This motion is produced by the Thrust of the engine(s).

The figure below is a simple diagram of the four forces acting on an airplane – Thrust, Lift , Drag and Weight. Drag is the force produced by the resistance of the air to the forward motion of the airplane. Swish your hand rapidly side-to-side and you will feel that resistance on your hand.

Weight is the force created by the pull of gravity toward the center of the earth. You will feel the effect of this force if you jump up from the floor. Your weight will force you back down.

When the Thrust produced by the engine(s) is greater than the force of Drag, the airplane moves forward. When the forward motion is enough to produce a force of Lift that is greater than the Weight, the airplane moves upward.

While any part of the airplane can produce Lift, the most Lift comes from the wings.”

Well, that was’nt so difficult, was it?



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