The Physics of Flight

The Physics of Flight
Dan Sullivan
What is flight?
 Process by which an
object achieves
sustained movement
through the air by
generating lift
 Mechanical flight=the
use of a machine,
called an aircraft, to
How does flight occur?
 4 important forces to
account for while
– Thrust: T=v (dm/dt)
 Aircraft’s engines
generate thrust
– Lift
 Air passes over/under
airfoil (aircraft’s wings)
– Drag
 Resistance
– Weight
 Gravity
Forces of Flight, Pt.1
 Thrust: Reaction force, generated in aircraft by engines drawing
in massive amounts of air.
 The air is then compressed inside the engine, and rapidly
escapes out of the back of the engine.
– Newton’s 2nd, 3rd laws
Forces of Flight, Pt.2
 Lift: created when air
interacts with airfoil
(wing) and deflected
downward. Force
created by the
deflection creates
equal, opposite upward
force (N’s 3rd)
– At slower speeds,
aircraft employ flaps,
which increase surface
area and lift, and help
prevent stalling
Forces of Flight, Pt. 3
 Drag: Force that
resists the
movement of a
solid through air
– Friction created by
plane passing
through the air
 Weight:
gravitational force
on object, in this
case, an aircraft
How does an aircraft move?
 3 Axes of movement
– Roll: Ailerons
 Controls banking motions
of aircraft
– Pitch: Elevator
 Controls angle of attack
(up, down movement)
– Yaw: Rudder
 Moves plane laterally
– When yawing, outside
wing has greater lift,
causes turn
“The Miracle of Flight”-Stephen Dalton

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