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Fly with physics

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Fly With Physics

The Physics of an Airplane’s Flight

By Marco Vitali, 10B Physics, May 28th 2009

        Airplanes are an efficient way of traveling to places, especially if they’re far away. They are used every day by hundreds of thousands of people; more than 87,000 flights are in the skies in the United States every day and only one-third of those are commercial carriers, such as Iberia, American Airlines and Singapore Airlines. “At any given moment, roughly 5,000 planes are in the skies above the United States” (Air Traffic Control: By the Numbers). Even though they are used so much, still today, there are discussions on who invented the first working “flying machine” or airplane.  


        “Ever since [humans] first saw a bird fly, [humans have] wanted to fly. The first attempts were efforts to fly like a bird by attaching feathers to their arms and flapping. Those attempts were unsuccessful.”(History of Airplanes) The first recorded, successful flight was in 1783 but it was in a hot air balloon, which does not use any of the principles behind an airplane (History of Airplanes). Even though the former was the first successful recorded flight, many people believe that it was Leonardo Da Vinci who actually invented the first working flying machine and flew.

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. Divide both sides by volume, image08.png , and because V is a constant image09.png. Since Density, or P, equals image13.png then   image10.png. Given that P, or pressure, equals pgh then image11.png  which can be rewritten as image04.png (Nave), (Almeida).  


image05.png    and   image06.png







Application to Airplanes

Airplane wings are shaped so that the top of the wing is longer than the bottom.  Therefore, the airflow on the top of the wing will be faster and cause lower pressure on the top than the bottom, thus, this will cause lift. “The blade of the rotor of a helicopter is also shaped like an aircraft’s wing, thus creating the same effect.” The same concept is used in race car spoilers, only backwards so the cars won’t gain lift and flip in the air. They are shaped like up-side-down wings, making the airflow faster on the bottom, therefore since there will be lower pressure on the bottom the car will stick down to the ground creating a so-called “down force” (Almeida). image12.pngimage01.png

“The airflow striking the fixed wing airfoil of an aircraft or the aircraft itself is called the relative wind.” The angle at which the wings hit the relative wind is knows as angle of attack or alpha. The more you increase alpha the more pressure difference there will be, therefore greater lift (How Airplanes Fly).

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Gizmodo. 03 14 2007. 16 May 2009.  


"Fuel Efficiency." Environment. 2009. IATA. 16 May 2009.


Gordon. "CONCORDE." Concorde History June 2000 Web.28 Apr 2009.


 Hewitt, Paul. Conceptual Physics. 3rd. Scott Foresman Addison Wesley, 1999. Print.

"History of Airplanes." ThinkQuest. ThinkQuest . 15 May 2009.


"How Airplanes Fly." Public Resource . 03 24 2008. Merit Film. 16 May 2009.


Kolano, Ed. "What Is Angle of Attack?." Ithacanet. 2 May 2009.


Nave, R.. "Bernoulli Equation ." hyperphysics. 16 May 2009.


Peron, Lee. "-22 INITIAL HIGH ANGLE-OF-ATTACK FLIGHT TEST RESULTS." sfte-ec. 2 May 2009.


"The Basic Principles of Flight." How airplanes fly. R/C Airplane World. 23 May 2009


"THE 100 FASTEST AIRCRAFT." Aviation Trivia. 2008. 3 May 2009.


Were Wright Brothers the First to Fly?." Did you know?. 2009. May 15 2009.


"Who Invented the Plane?." WikiAnswers. 12 11 2008. 15 May 2009.


"Wiki: Stall (flight)." Wapedia. Wapeia. 16 May 2009.


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