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Downwash (downward moving draft)

The second aspect of making lift:

  • According to Isaac Newton's third law of motion, if air gives an upward force to a plane, the plane must provide an equal and opposite downward force to the air. That means that the plane generates lift by using its wings to push air downward behind it.
  • The wings are tilted back very slightly, so they hit the air at an angle of attack. The angled wings push down the varied airflow from above and below the wing to create lift.

The pressure difference that a wing creates and the downwash of the air behind it generate the same effect: The angled airfoil wing creates a pressure difference that causes a downwash and produces lift.

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MORE IDEAS ON THIS

How planes steer

When you change something's direction of travel, you change its velocity - the speed it has in a particular direction. A change in direction always means a change in velocity and acceleration.

Newton's laws of motion state that you can only change the speed of something or...

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Key parts of planes

  • Fuel tanks: The fuel is safely packed inside the plane's enormous wings.
  • Landing gear: Planes take off and land on wheels. The wheels are retracted into the undercarriage by hydraulic rams to reduce drag when the plane is in the sky.

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Wing vortices

Wing vortices

A plane throws the air down behind it by making a spinning vortex - a kind of mini-tornado.

Most of the vortex is moving downward, but not all. There's a huge draft of air moving down in the center, but the air also swirls upward on either side of the wingtips, reducing lift.

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Airplanes: Explaining pressure differences

Most aeroplane wings are curved on the upper surface and flatter on the lower surface, making a sectional shape, named an airfoil.

  • As a curved airfoil wing flies through the sky, it deflects the air and changes the air pressure above and below it.

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Airplanes: How much lift you can make

Air that flows at a certain angle (generally 15 deg) over the top and bottom of a wing follows the curve of the wing surfaces very closely. But as the angle increases (the angle of attack), the smooth airflow behind the wing becomes more turbulent and reduces the lift.

  • Planes...

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Airplanes: Steering in theory

If you're in a plane and steering around a circle, the centripetal force comes from leaning into a curve, just like a cyclist leans into a bend.

Steering involves banking, where the plane tilts to one side causing the one wing to dip. The plane's overall lift is tilted at ...

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Airplanes: Steering in practice

You steer something flying through the air at high speed by making the air flow in a different way past the wings.

Planes are moved up and down, steered from side to side, and made to stop by a complex collection of moving flaps called control surfaces on the leading and t...

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Airplanes: How wings make lift

Wings make lift by changing the direction and pressure of the air that the plane comes into contact with as the engines push the planes through the sky.

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How planes fly

Planes can fly quite easily without engines, as gliders (planes without engines), paper planes, and gliding birds show us.

A plane's engine is designed to move the plane forward at high speed. The wings move a plane upward. At high speed, the air flows fa...

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Experiment to understand control surfaces

  • Build a basic paper plane that flies in a straight line.
  • Cut or rip the back of the wings to make some ailerons.
  • Tilt them up and down and see what effect they have in different positions.
  • Tilt one wing up and the other down and see what differenc...

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Airplanes: The centripetal force

Another way to look at steering is to think of it as stopping something from going in a straight line and going in a circle. That means you have to give it a centripetal force.

Things that move in a circle always have something acting on them to give them a centripetal for...

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Airplanes: How much lift you can make

Air that flows at a certain angle (generally 15 deg) over the top and bottom of a wing follows the curve of the wing surfaces very closely. But as the angle increases (the angle of attack), the smooth airflow behind the wing becomes more turbulent and reduces the lift.

  • Planes...

How planes fly

Planes can fly quite easily without engines, as gliders (planes without engines), paper planes, and gliding birds show us.

A plane's engine is designed to move the plane forward at high speed. The wings move a plane upward. At high speed, the air flows fa...

Airplanes: Steering in theory

If you're in a plane and steering around a circle, the centripetal force comes from leaning into a curve, just like a cyclist leans into a bend.

Steering involves banking, where the plane tilts to one side causing the one wing to dip. The plane's overall lift is tilted at ...

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