How do airplanes fly?
KIDS: How do Airplanes Fly
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*F4U Corsair - How Do Airplanes Fly? *
This page provides an explanation of how airplanes fly in simple terms,
and is meant as a brief introduction to the topic. No attempt will be made
to discuss all of the real-life factors involved in flight or the
mathematical formulas needed to compute the results of these factors on an
airplane in flight.
The source for this explanation is the National Aeronautics and Space
Administrations Beginners Guide to Aeronautics which may be found
on the web at http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/airplane/bga.html . We
consider this to be the most complete, accurate and authoritative source,
and we urge students to continue their study of this topic by reviewing
those materials that are right for their age and education. The guides
contain text, illustrations, experiments, activities, lessons, free
software, downloadable movies and cut-outs that can be used to help you
understand these complex topics.
*How Airplanes Fly*
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
The Dynamics of Airplane Flight
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*The Dynamics of Airplane Flight
Air* is a physical substance which has weight. It has molecules which are
constantly moving. Air pressure is created by the molecules moving around.
Moving air has a force that will lift kites and balloons up and down. Air
is a mixture of different gases; oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. All
things that fly need air. Air has power to push and pull on the birds,
balloons, kites and planes. In 1640, Evangelista Torricelli discovered that
air has *weight.* When experimenting with measuring mercury, he discovered
that air put pressure on the mercury.
Francesco Lana used this discovery to begin to plan for an airship in the
late 1600s. He drew an airship on paper that used the idea that air has
weight. The ship was a hollow sphere which would have the air taken out of
it. Once the air was removed, the sphere would have less weight and would
be able to float up into the air. Each of four spheres would be attached to
a boat-like structure and then the whole machine would float. The actual
design was never tried.
Hot air expands and spreads out and it becomes lighter than cool air. When
a balloon is full of hot air it rises up because the hot air expands inside
the balloon. When the hot air cools and is let out of the balloon the
balloon comes back down.
- Diagram of how air flows over and under airfoilHow Wings Lift the Plane -
Airplane wings are curved on the top which make air move faster over the
top of the
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