Seeing an airplane fly is always a wonderful sight. The airplane has always sparked curiosity in the minds of people. How does it fly? Up to what height it will fly? How long can it stay in the air? These are all the questions that pop into our minds.
To understand how planes fly, we have to go back to basic physics. Forces. Newton’s law says a body that will move and increase or decrease speed should exert a force. Let’s look into the forces that will affect the flight of an airplane. If a plane has to fly properly without falling off the sky, all the forces need to be carefully balanced.
The four main forces acting on the plane while it flies are lift, thrust, drag, and weight. Most of us are familiar with ‘weight’. This is the force that pulls the airplane down due to gravity. Since we know an airplane can fly in the air, this weight has to be balanced by another upward force to enable it to stay in the air
Thrust is a force that prompts an airplane to travel in the direction of movement. The thrust is produced by the airplane’s engines. Thrust enables an aircraft to accelerate. Thrust works in opposition to Weight and contributes to Lift. It’s powered by a propeller, jet engine, or rocket engine. Air is drawn in, then expelled out in the back direction. Thrust can be angled to assist the plane rising or descending.
Drag is the force that operates in the reverse direction of motion. It has the effect of slowing down an object. Drag is created by friction and air pressure variations.
The surface of the aeroplane wings is curved. If air is blown above a surface that is curved on one side but flat on the other side, a pressure differential occurs because the air travelling over the curve is unable to apply sufficient pressure. The more lift generated, the faster the plane travels.
The propulsion generates the right amount of lift to cancel out gravity and drag. Airplanes fly since the thrust produced by their engines generates lift from their wings that are either greater or equal to the aircraft’s weight and drag. The bulkier the aircraft, the more powerful engines it wants to stay aloft.
Aircraft will fly as long as its airspeed exceeds the stalling speed. If the velocity is below the level flying speed the flight will move downward. Planes fly because the force they put on the air exceeds the force of gravity on the plane. When you apply force to a fluid, it flows, hence the air moves downward.
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