Basic Aerodynamics Of An Airplane

how does airplane work

As it is the main area about building airplanes, aerodynamics should be well studied to understand the mechanism how an airplane flies.

To start with the  basics of aerodynamics, there are four main forces:

  • Thrust
  • Lift
  • Drag
  • Weight

Here thrust is the force that enables us to go forward, however drag is at the opposite part of it. The difference between drag and thrust is going to shows us the force on x axis of the airplane.  So how we create thrust? The answer is engines!

turbojet engine thurst

turbojet engine thurst

It is possible to see in the picture above:

  1. Air goes into the engine via air intakes
  2. Air passes through the compressor and becomes compressed to increase the pressure and lower the velocity
  3. In the combustion chamber, the air is burned with fuel
  4. After burning, it goes to turbine to increase the velocity and lower the pressure
  5. The high velocity air is thrown outside by using nozzle (There is an angle at the nozzle to avoid shock waves)
  6. This high velocity air creates a thrust to move the airplane forward

How drag can occur?

aircraft drag force

aircraft drag force

The air comes straight to the wings of an airplane, then according to its shape and angle of attack, the airflow will not move straight anymore. The airflow will be turbulence as the surface and the leading edge is not a point/flat.  This is why, the turbulent flow creates a drag behind the wings.

Also all the components of aircraft creates drag as they are facing the airflow as well.

What about lift?

On the other side, the airplane has lift and weight.

airplane lift force

airplane lift force

As you can see above, one may consider that K is the lift force. The formula of lift includes lift coefficient, wing area, pressure and the velocity. The lift has to be greater than the weight of the aircraft to be able to increase its altitude.

aircraft lift force

aircraft lift force

At the upper surface of the airfoil/wing one has high velocity and low pressure. However at the below section it is high pressure and low velocity. When the total force “caused by pressure” has been taken into integral and calculated, the lift force can be found. This is how aerodynamically one can create a lift.

In order to understand how it works, you can see in the video below with a great explanation about how lift occurs:

It is also possible to create more lift by changing the angle of attack as long as one is not in stall. Stall is the position that an aircraft looses its capacity to create lift.

Weight is affected by the gravity force and the take off weight of the airplane. That is the reason why all aircraft has a take off weight and they cannot allow you to get more weights to the airplane.

The basics of aerodynamics are given in this article. Are you curios about aerodynamics? You can read our articles in aerodynamics to get more information, ask questions to our engineers and share your thoughts with us.

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I am an aerospace engineer with experience specialized on aircraft structures. Here to serve for aviation industry.
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