The ability of aeroplanes to fly relies on two main principles of aerodynamics: lift and thrust.
How does lift work in planes?
Lift can be produced by any part of the plane, but it predominantly comes from the wings. This force drives the place upwards and keeps it steady in the air. Thanks to an aeroplane wing’s special airfoil shape, air particles move above or below the wing to create air pressure that pushes it up. This is known as Bernoulli’s Principle.
How does thrust work in aeroplanes?
Issac Newton’s Third Law of Motion, the idea that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”, is the concept behind thrust – which is when an object is pushed forward with force.
Jet engines are the key to aeroplanes achieving thrust. You can think of it like a tube with liquid fuel that takes in air, compresses it and combines it with gas. This mixture then ignites and forces the gas out through the back of the engine, which in turn propels the aeroplane forward in accordance with the Third Law of Motion.
However, there are two other forces that also contribute to the ability of an aeroplane to fly: drag and weight.
How does drag work in aeroplanes?
Drag is the resistance you feel when you move an object or your body through the air – like when you stick your arm outside the car window. This force slows objects down. Aeroplanes are designed as aerodynamically as possible to ensure that air will flow as smoothly as possible around the body so that the amount of drag doesn’t overpower the thrust.
How does weight work in aeroplanes?
Weight is the pull of gravity toward the centre of the earth – essentially, that which goes up must come down. When an aeroplane is built, the engineers will run through a series of equations to calculate the proper wing size and flying speed to ensure that the aeroplane will be able to generate enough lift versus the weight to stay in the air.
How do these principles make an aeroplane fly?
To put it very simply, if the lift in the wings is greater than the overall craft weight, the aeroplane will move upwards. And if the thrust is greater than the force of the drag, the aeroplane will move forwards. That’s how aeroplanes stay in the air.