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How Does An Airplane Really Work?

While I was traveling in a 737 recently, the movie wasnt particularly interesting; so like the geek that I am, I wondered how an airplane really work. I know, your 10 year old kid can explained it to me about the air pressure differences created by an airfoil shape or deflection of air molecules against the surfaces of the wing. I’ve heard those before, but now that I’m an adult, I thought I would want the adult answer, so I turned to the HowStuffWork site.

As it turned out, neither one of those explanations was completely true… In the course of the article, there’s a reference to this neat little java applet over at the NASA site that lets you play with the design of an airfoil in their little virtual wind tunnel. Now the applet is not very fancy, but it tickled the inner geek inside of me, and I thought I share it with the rest of you geeks…

4 Comments on How Does An Airplane Really Work?

  1. Actually, if you apply enough force to an object it will fly. Thats why rocks fly if you throw them or tin cans or heck cars when launched via trebuchet (mmmmm trebuchet)…

    But the key point about flying is that yes big planes can fly with short wings, but gliding on the other hand is something they cannot do. And as for an adult answer – the deflection of air molecules is an adult answer. The child answer is “because”. Sheesh – you really got to hang out with parents more…

  2. Oh, and don’t forget, F-4 Phantoms fly because they have a big a$$ engine behind them, thus proving the addage Tim alluded to above: “Anything can fly with a big enough engine”.

    You haven’t lived until you’ve seen/heard F-4s practicing touch and go landings where your apartment is on the take-off side of things. Full afterburners is, well, rather quite loud. Not too mention the walls and windows shaking. Extremely cool though.

  3. Is that “big-a$$” or “a$$-engine”?

  4. Take your pick, whichever works for you.

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