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The Science of Flight

The majority of us take for granted the luxury of soaring above the clouds on our way to a destination. Most of us still cannot fathom the science behind flight, as jets fly hundreds of miles per hour across thousands of miles every day. A century ago, this amazing feat would have bedazzled the pioneers of flight. The Wright Brothers would have salivated over the jet technology we have today. We have jets that can travel the world thanks to their experiments. In fact, the airplane has earned its reputation for being one of the greatest inventions of all time, and it continues to evolve to this day.

Most people notice the noise emanating from the long metal tubes attached to a jet plane. Jet engines burn a continuous mix of fuel and air, which creates a louder sound than traditional propeller-based engines. Many people think that the engines are the sole component behind the science of flight. But there are plenty of things that can fly without engines: Just think of gliders, paper planes, and gliding birds. Understanding how planes fly should come with a clear understanding behind the dynamics of the engines and wings. A plane's engines propel the plane forward at high speed, which makes air flow rapidly over the wings. This creates a pressure change that generates an upward lift that overcomes the plane's weight. In short, the engines propel the plane forward while the wings move it upward.

An airplane creates a "downwash" effect in the same way as a helicopter. Helicopter rotors work the same way as airplane foils but spinning around in a circle instead of moving forward in a straight line. The science behind creating lift follows Isaac Newton's third law of motion. Newton's third law of motion explains that if air gives an upward force to a plane, then the plane must be exerting an equal and opposite downward force. Therefore, a plane generates lift by using its wings to push the air downward. The tilted design of the wings make it easier to hit the air at an angle of attack. The angled wings push down on the accelerated airflow coming from above and the slow-moving airflow beneath to produce a lift. An airplane's wing is designed with an airfoil that deflects down more air than the straighter bottom, which alters the path of incoming air. This produces a stronger lift than what normally would occur.

In general, the air flowing over the top of the wing follows the curved design of the wing's surfaces very closely. As the angle of attack increases, the airflow breaks down and becomes turbulent and reduces lift. At a certain angle, the air stops flows around the wing smoothly. This creates a loss in lift and an increase in drag, which causes the plane to stall. A stall means a loss in lift and not engine power. The bigger the wings are, the more lift they create, which doubles the area of the wing. But small wings can produce a great deal of lift if the plane moves fast enough. Airplane wings are also designed with flaps. These flaps can extend to push more air downward at takeoff, helping to lift the plane off of the ground.

Every plane has a steering control in the cockpit. In fact, the cockpit steering control is the only thing that resembles equipment found in a car. The steering works by making the air flow pass the wings on each side in a different way. This allows the planes to move up and down and side to side and be brought to a complete halt. The pilot achieves this by moving a collection of flaps on the leading and trailing edges of the wings and tail called control surfaces. Pilots refer to these as ailerons, rudders, spoilers, elevators, and air brakes. Each of these control surfaces operate to steer the plane in the desired direction.

 


 

ElJet acts as an agent for private air charter services on behalf of our clients. ElJet does not own or operate any aircraft nor is ElJet a direct or indirect air carrier. All charter flights booked with ElJet will be operated by FAR Part 135 air carriers "Operators" or the international equivalent, who will maintain full operational control of charter flights at all times.