Sie sind auf Seite 1von 11


Physics of Flight An Assignment Submitted by Name of Student Name of Establishment Class XXXX, Section XXXX, Spring 2012

PHYSICS OF FLIGHT Physics of Flight Introduction: A Brief History of Mechanic Flight The myth of Daedalus and Icarus, who built wings of wax and used birds feathers to ascend towards the sun, is said to be the beginning of the history of aviation. Imitation of the flight of birds was done in the Middle Ages and in the Ancient times; however, little or no progress was achieved. However, according to Torenbeek and Wittenberg (2009) certain artefacts of the distant past are known that are founded on the principles of flight, such as the (aerodynamic stabilizing finned) rocket, the boomerang invented by Australian aboriginals, the (toy) glider and the propeller. Kites, existent in China many centuries B.C., may be considered predecessors of the airplane. They were further used in the 18th century (for example, Benjamin Franklin used a kite for his experiments with lightning). The propeller and the windmill are related too. Early initiatives in aviation and aerodynamics began with investigation of the flight of birds. In the 1500s Leonardo Da Vinci weighed various birds and attempted to relate their weight to the size of their wings to deduce the necessary length of a wing required to lift a human up in the air. In fact, most of the attempts of flight were based on investigating the flight of birds. Da Vinci is also known for conceiving ornithopters (flying machines with muscular-powered wings). Further investigation into the art and science of flying proceeded in the 18th century with the invention of a hot-air balloon in the 1870s. The experiments with gasoline motor and a glider led to pioneering work by Maxim, Langley and Lilienthal. In 1909 a monoplane guided by Blerot crossed the English Channel (although the first crossing of the channel was done in 1785 by Jeffries

PHYSICS OF FLIGHT and Blanchard, two meteorologists on a hot-air balloon). Finally, the first powered flight in history was conducted by Orville and Wilbur Wright in 1903. At present stage, aviation has changed significantly since the first glider experiments and the first powered flight. Currently, airplanes are capable of climbing great altitudes and flying extremely long distances with tremendous speed. Helicopters, rising from the ground vertically, capable of hovering without motion and used primarily for short-distance flight, are designed for the lower strata of the atmosphere. This paper is aimed at exploring the basics of aerodynamics of flightby analysing forces that act on an airfoil, forces that bring a birds wing in motion and the flight of a helicopter. Physics of Flight Explained It is essential to understand the basics of flying before proceeding towards analysing exemplary cases. In this section, Newtons laws would be used to understand the basics of flying. Newtons first law suggests that forces acting on an airplane are balanced; when the flow of air bends over a wing, there is external force acting on it, expressing itself as a difference in pressure. Newtons third law suggests that for any action there is an equal opposite reaction; therefore, the air is putting an equal and opposite force on the wing that is bending it. The second law expressed as F=ma => a=F/m suggests that an object would be accelerated faster if it were lighter (acceleration is inversely proportional to mass and directly proportional to force applied). The second law can be restated to suggest that the lift of a wing is proportional to the amount of air diverted down times the vertical velocity of that air. Basic Newtonian principles of an aerodynamic lift can therefore be formulated as follows:

PHYSICS OF FLIGHT 1. Upward lift is generated by downward acceleration of air masses; 2. Forward moving is achieved by accelerating air mass rearward; 3. Drag occurs through forward acceleration of air mass; 4. Air masses accelerate upward at the same rate, at which they are accelerated downward in the lift process. Another important theoretical notion is Bernoullis law that states that upper surface pressure of wing is less than a lower surface pressure; thus, it creates a lift. However, this common high-school notion is somewhat incorrect. A wing creates a region of reduced pressure on the top surface that pulls the passing air downward. This partial vacuum over the top surface maintains as a lift (Tennekes&Tennekes, 2009). Bernoulli formula is, however, applicable to calculate the pressure difference. The theorem under consideration states the following: 1 2 + = ( ) 2 In the above equation: pm mass density, U velocity, p=F/A pressure (F force, A area).

It is normally assumed that since l1>l2, U1>U2 and p1<p2, thus, F2>F1. However, it cannot be assumed that the leading edge is the point where streamlines separate. Instead, the difference in pressure has to be calculated for the whole flow pattern of the wing. The forces and difference in pressures is also variable depending on the angle of attack.

PHYSICS OF FLIGHT There are four forces affecting any dynamic flying object. An airplane in a straight-and-level unaccelerated flight is affected by the forces of thrust, drag, lift and weight. While in flight, those forces are balanced.

Thrust is the forward force that is produced by propeller or rotor and normally acts along the longitude axis (not always the case); for the aircraft to move, it should be greater than drag. Drag is a rearward force that opposes thrust, and is parallel to the relative wind. It resists movement of an aircraft through the air (parasite drag: replacement of air by the aircraft, turbulence, and air moving along the surface). Weight is the force that pulls the flying object downward due to gravity (W=mg); opposite to lift. Lift acts perpendicular through the centre of lift; it is a function of the angle of attack and directly proportional to the effective angle of attack. A lift/ drag ratio obtained through dividing lift and drag equations is important to calculate the amount of lift generated by a wing compared to its drag (Cl lift coefficient, Cd drag coefficient): 2 = 2 = 2 2

In steady flight, the sum of all upward forces equals to the sum of all downward forces; the sum of all forward forces is equal to the sum of all rearward forces.


Further discussion concern applications of the basic aerodynamics of flight in various forms. Airfoil An airfoil is the part of an aircraft that produces lift as it passes through the air. Examples of an airfoil are wings, propeller blades, and rotor blades of a helicopter. An airfoil is designed in such a way so that to divide air flow smoothly into two parts, whereas the upper part is accelerated and the lower part is retarded. Here Bernoullis theorem is applicable, since upward suction is generated and pressure below is increased. According to the flow turning theory that is somewhat

controversial to Bernoulli theorem, lift is generated in the airfoil the following way: the airfoil bends the direction of the airflow around it as the airflow passes over theupper surface, and creates a vertical velocity of airflow past the trailing edge (Sullivan, 2010). The airfoil is also affected by the wind tunnel perpendicular to the lift opposite to the relative motion of an airfoil and

PHYSICS OF FLIGHT of parallel direction to the airflow. Skin friction drag occurs between air molecules and airfoil surface; form drag depends on the shape of the airfoil. An airfoil has several edges: the leading edge (the front edge or surface), trailing edge (the rear edge or surface); a chord line (an imaginary line that connects leading edge and trailing edge); a camber (the departure from a chord line). At the trailing edge, the two airstreams (the accelerated and decelerated) join with nearly-equal velocity and nearly-equal pressure so that whirl formation is reduced; lift is produced with small drag and lift/drag ratio is increased to 20:1. The wind force affecting an airfoil of area S under steady wind velocity V and density p is controlled by the following formula: = 1 2 2

In this equation, C is a force coefficient or a factor of proportionality depending on the angle of attack and the shape of the wing (not its size!). The wind force may be decomposed into the lift component and drag component, whereas lift and drag are perpendicular to each other. For level flight, decomposition of forces is demonstrated on the figure (Lande, 1945). The angle between wind force and its lift component may be denoted as ; then, L=Fcos, and D=Fsin. Thus, it is possible to express the speed of an airplane of a given weight (W; in a level flight, L=W), wing surface area (S), propeller thrust (T that is necessary to overcome drag, D=T) with given coefficients CL and CD: =
1 2

PHYSICS OF FLIGHT Birds Wing To understand a birds flight, it is essential to understand the anatomy of a birds wing (see picture from Prum, 2008). The wing is similar to forelimbs of vertebrates; it is similar to human arms and has a single basal upper arm bone attached to a pair of parallel bones; hands and fingers have smaller bones. Besides, it is also covered with feathers (various in shapes, size and structure; similar in structure to claws, nails and hair). Feathers zip together to create a flat surface that creates physical forces allowing the bird to fly. Trailing feathers are the largest; they are attached to the trailing edge of the wing and create the shape of the wing. Wingstroke is driven by large muscles in the birds chest. In flight, birds are also affected by the same forces as airfoil (weight, lift, drag and thrust). To understand how a bird flies it is useful to look at a cross-section of a birds wing. In the cross-section, the top-surface of a wing is more curved than its bottom surface. Due to this curve, the air that flies over the top of the wing has to travel further to traverse the wing. The wind also travels faster across the top surface of the wing than it does across the bottom. Thus, there are different speeds of the wind across the two surfaces of the wing. By applying Bernoullis theorem (that states that the sum of the static pressure on the surface and dynamic pressure or air speed along the surface are constant), we can understand that the curved shape of the wing creates high dynamic pressure and lower static pressure on the top surface and low dynamic pressure as well as high static pressure on the bottom surface. The difference in

PHYSICS OF FLIGHT static pressure between the top and the bottom surfaces of the birds wing keeps the bird flying. The bird thus has to create enough lift to counteract its weight and counteract the loss of energy that occurs due to drag. The following image provides a summary of the airflow along a curved bird wing (Prum, 2008):

To understand flapping bird flight, it is essential to bear in mind that birds do not create the forces of lift and thrust separately; they use their wings to create the two forces simultaneously. During the downstroke, the bird rotates the angle of the wing (the angle of attack) to change the direction of the lift since lift is perpendicular to the movement of the air across the wing. In other words, a birds wing works like a propeller and an airfoil to create vertical and forward-directed forces. There is a direct relationship between the surface of the birds wing and the weight that it carries. Helicopter Principles that are applicable to other flying objects are also applicable to rotarywing aircraft (helicopter). However, a rotary-wing aircraft achieves lift differently. The helicopter achieves lift through rotating airfoils; using several engine-driven rotors, the helicopter obtains lift. Airfoils in a helicopter are perfectly symmetrical (the upper and

PHYSICS OF FLIGHT the lower surfaces of them are identically-shaped). Unlike a fixed-wing aircraft that has differnt camber on the upper and lower surface, a helicopter has identical camber. The centre of pressure across a helicopters airfoil is fixed, while in a fixed-wing aircraft a centre of pressure moves as the angle of attack changes. A helicopter accomplishes lift by rotating airfoils or rotary blades at high speed through the air. By increasing the angle of attack, it is possible to change the lift. When the angle is zero, no lift is achieved. To control the direction of a helicopters flight, it is necessary to control the main rotor. For example, when it is directed forward, the force that it develops would be directed downward; thus, lift would be developed in an upward direction.To maintain a hovering position, it is necessary to equalize all forces (lift, drag, weight and thrust) that affect the helicopter. There is a torque reaction that is developed by the helicopter. Since the rotors turn in high speed in one direction, the main body of the helicopter turns the other way. This reaction can be offset by using an anti-torque rotor at the tail. The tail rotor is designed in such a way that it produces thrust in the opposite direction of the torque reaction.


PHYSICS OF FLIGHT References Anderson, D.F., Eberhardt, S. (2010) Understanding flight. McGraw-Hill Professional. Breithaupt, J. (2001) Physics. Nelson Thornes Inc. Davidovits, P. (2007) Physics in biology and medicine. Academic Press. Feldman, B. J., George, T. F., Long, C. A., Long, C. F., &Guoping, Z. (2006). Origin of Bird Flight: A Physics Viewpoint. Physics Teacher, 44(6), 351-353. doi:10.1119/1.2336135 Lande, A. (1945) The physics of flight. New York: Reinhold Publishing Corporation. Prum, R.O. (2008) Leonardo and the science of bird flight.CAT. 12, FOLIO 7 VERSO Sullivan, A. (2010) Aerodynamic forces acting on an airfoil. Physics Department; The College of Wooster; Wooster; Ohio; 44691; USA Tennekes, H., Tennekes, H. (2009) The simple science of flight: From insects to jumbo jets. MIT Press. Torenbeek, E., Wittenberg, H. (2009) Flight physics: Essentials of aeronautical disciplines and technology, with historical notes. Springer. Videler, J.J. (2006) Avian flight. Oxford University Press.