What really allows airplanes to fly?

Posted by Pinki | Updated on

Basically planes fly because they push enough air downwards and receive an upwards lift thanks to Newton’s third law.

They do so in a variety of manners, but the most significant contributions are:

  • The angle of attack of the wings, which uses drag to push the air down. This is typical during take off (think of airplanes going upwards with the nose up) and landing (flaps). This is also how planes fly upside down.
  • The asymmetrical shape of the wings that directs the air passing over them downwards instead of straight behind. This allows planes to fly level to the ground without having a permanent angle on the wings.

Explanations showing a wing profile without an angle of attack are incorrect. Airplane wings are attached at an angle so they push the air down, and the airfoil shape lets them do so efficiently and in a stable configuration.


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