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How do airplanes fly?

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#1 Guest_LeChatNinjah_*

Posted 19 February 2013 - 03:46 AM

Yes, I'm freaking out.

Am taking all of my kids on a flying hunk of metal in the morning and am utterly terrified.  I've flown zillions of miles in my life so far and still am sh*t scared.  It's a huge hunk of metal.  It weighs a lot.  I know there's something about speed and wind and wing shape.

I am also a bit of a science geek, so if there is anyone out there on EB who can put it to me in simple terms of physics that will make me not vomit with fear on takeoff please post now.


Will need to be VERY simple terms of physics.

#2 Feral-as-Meggs

Posted 19 February 2013 - 04:50 AM

Air pressure.

Due to the curved shape of the wing, as the plane moves through the air the distance for the air to travel over the wing is longer than the distance than under it.   Like being on the outside of the racetrack.   So there's always more air (per square metre) under the wing than over it and that holds it up.

#3 TheWanderer

Posted 19 February 2013 - 06:00 AM


#4 tenar

Posted 19 February 2013 - 06:27 AM


Aeroplanes are by far the safest form of travel.  You are in much more danger driving to the airport.  Do you worry every time you put all the kids in the car?  I thought not...

Have a nice trip.

#5 cinnabubble

Posted 19 February 2013 - 06:51 AM

They don't so mch fly as fall upwards.


#6 Kay1

Posted 19 February 2013 - 07:00 AM

cinnabubble you are wicked!! laughing2.gif

Just try to think about all the airports all over the world full of planes and people. All landing safely. Yours will be one of them.

#7 EssentialBludger

Posted 19 February 2013 - 08:34 AM

Just don't watch air crash investigations the day before a flight. I made that mistake once. Good trip that one. unsure.gif

Edited by EssentialBludger, 19 February 2013 - 08:34 AM.

#8 hunter4

Posted 19 February 2013 - 08:35 AM

Ok basic aerodynamic lesson (as learnt during 4 year aeronautical engineering course).

Basically a plane fly due to just four forces.  Thrust (procuded by the engines) and Drag (think of it as the friction of the plane moving through the air).  If you have more thrust that you do drag you go forwards.  Then there's Weight (ovbiously the weight of the plane), and Lift (as produced by the wing). if you've got more lift than weight the plane will stay up in the air.

What creats lift. Basically the shape and size of the wings. When the air rushes around the correctly shaped  and angled wing  the air going over the top of the wing has further to go which means it has to go faster which in turn reduces the pressure above the wing.  The air going below the wing is going slower because it doesn't have as far to go, which creates a higher pressure.  to try and equalise the pressure above and below the wing the wing will move upwards (i.e lift is created).   The amount of lift you can then create with the wing depends on the angle and shape of the wing, the size of the wing and the speed of the plane (that's what take off is about, getting the plane to a speed where the lift created is greater than the weight of the plane).

As PP's have said, it is still the safest form of travel.  And something else to remember - everything on an aircraft is designed to withstand crash loads - thats up to 9 times the normal forces that the aircraft sees in flight - on top of that there's always a 1.5 safety factor included in every calculation, then there's the fatigue analyses that are performed.  Believe me - planes are inherently safe structures.

Good luck on your flight.  Hope all goes smoothly.

#9 wilding

Posted 19 February 2013 - 10:11 AM

When my son was little, he use to think that planes flapped their wings like a bird to fly. I always have trouble on take off and landing, but once in the air I'm fine. I'd rather fly then drive.

EBludger, i'm obsessed with air crash investigations  ph34r.gif

#10 JJ

Posted 19 February 2013 - 11:07 AM

QUOTE (wilding @ 19/02/2013, 10:11 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
When my son was little, he use to think that planes flapped their wings like a bird to fly. I always have trouble on take off and landing, but once in the air I'm fine. I'd rather fly then drive.

EBludger, i'm obsessed with air crash investigations  ph34r.gif

I think the Nazis had a plane like that - not sure if it was ever built or they just had plans for it (they had lots of plans for very "out there" things before they lost the war). I think they may have got as far as making a prototype, but don't quote me on that. It wasn't exactly flapping its wings, but pretty close to it. Freaky!

I'm obsessed with ACI too. I've seen every single episode ever made, and many of them several times. ph34r.gif

(And as they say, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing - definitely true when it comes to learning bits and bobs off a show like ACI and then having to fly!)

#11 elizabethany

Posted 19 February 2013 - 11:19 AM

If you like the practical stuff, you can show the air pressure causes movement at home quite easily.

Take 2 inflated ballons, and hang them so the can move freely, about 5cm apart at their closest point.  Get a straw, and gently blow between the balloons.  This creates air that is going faster on one side of the ballon than the other.  The ballons, instead of being blown apart, will actually move together.

And if you are a cricket tragic, it is also the physics behind polishing the ball on one side, but not the other.  The air can travel past the smooth side more easily and therefore more quickly, causes a lower pressure area, and the ball gets a bend in the direction it goes in.

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