The Physics Behind Airplane Flights

Traveling via plane has become a common thing for us that we tend to forget about how amazing the entire process is. Centuries ago, the art of traveling from one part of the world to the other in just a few hours was not yet discovered. We are lucky enough that we are able to experience and take advantage of this amazing invention and discovery today.

But how do planes really work? What is the physics behind airplane flights? Let us take a closer look.

There are actually four types of force that affects the airplane flight. The first two are forces which assist flight: lift and thrust. One the other hand, the remaining two are forces that resist flight: drag and gravity. These are the types of forces that we will be talking about today:


Thrust is the force produced by the engines of the plane. From the air which is pushed by the propeller blades into the engine, the aircraft will receive the force it needs in order to move forward. Many people think that this is the force which lifts the plane up in the air. For your information, thrust is a force which creates lift– the force needed to lift the plane up in the air.


When the wings of the plane come into contact with the air created by thrust, lift is produced. Lift is the product of the air flow on both under and above the wing. There is one big factor which determines the amount of lift can be created. This is the angle of attack or the angle at which the wing comes into contact with the air. The steeper this angle is, the more lift is produced.


This is a natural force created by the Earth. This constant force acts on only one direction– downward. Through thrust, lift force is created and gravity is counteracted. The plane can only be able to take off if there is enough lift force to overcome the amount of gravity that is pulling the aircraft downward.


Drag is the force that counteracts thrust. In general, drag is brought about by air resistance when the air flows through the wings of the plane. When the air molecules come into contact with the surface of the wing and get stuck into it, drag is produced. The smoother the surface, the lesser drag will be created. There are other types of drag out there but the drag mentioned above has the greatest impact on airplane flight.

All of the forces mentioned above must be in equilibrium in order for the plane to fly on a level and straight path. In addition to these forces, the quality of aircraft and airplane parts play a great role on how smooth the entire flight experience can be. This is why experts recommend evaluating and assessing the performance of the plane and the reliability of its parts prior to a flight.

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