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Planes in Flight: How Your Aircraft Works After Leaving the Private Hangar


July 10, 2018

You might be an avid plane enthusiast, an aviation expert, plane-owner, or maybe just have a great love of travel, but whatever brings your attention to airplanes, the science of how they operate is fascinating. Hopping in your jet and making your way across the country is now a feat that is commonplace and a fairly normal trek to take on a plane. Flight and plane flight is one of mankind’s greatest inventions - and it is hard to believe we only discovered the principles of this invention a century ago. While many people are familiar with Newton’s law of motion and how the actual ability to take flight works, it is interesting to look at the mechanics of it all and review how these scientific discoveries changed the face of how we connect to one another and the rest of the world.

The Magic Combination

A plane in flight requires four key elements to maintain its flight and trajectory and is further maintained through the balance of it all. Lift and weight must be in balance with one another, as well as thrust and drag. Thrust is what is pushing or propelling the plane forward, while takeoff or scaling higher in the sky is achieved by applying greater thrust in relation to drag. The resistance of the air itself is what creates drag, so offsetting this resistance is what will allow the plane to climb and continue to move forward.
 
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As with the thrust and drag working in balance with one another, the upward thrust also contributes and works in conjunction with lift. As more application of thrust is applied upward, the plane’s lift is increased and it enables the plane to rise in the air offsetting the weight of the mechanism itself. The two main mechanical components which creates these forces are the engines and the wings. The engines are responsible for the propulsion, or thrust, while the wings allow for air to move across them and down toward the ground, creating the upward movement necessary for flight.

Key Difference in Planes

Some people wonder about the difference between flight in planes or aircrafts as opposed to other types of flying mechanisms like gliders, parasailing, or even something as small as a paper airplane. The same principles apply, but to achieve the steady and controlled motion associated with air travel, the machine must use an engine. The glider will be able to fly, even to scale upward through utilizing some of nature’s own flight assistance - we know that heat rises, and pockets of heat coming from the ground on the earth’s surface can be found up in the air as well. A glider would be able to pinpoint these pockets of air and “ride” them upward to gain height while flying in the air, but otherwise would not be able to propel themselves up higher in the sky.

The key difference in planes is this ability to control and propel itself in a certain direction in conjunction with lift, for which the engine is responsible. The air is moved through the engines and over the wings at a very rapid speed, allowing for fast movement through the air and lots of lift as needed.
 
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Wind Beneath the Wings

The wings are such a critical component to understanding plane flight as they have a very specific and important role in managing this feat. Looking at the wing of an airplane, you will notice that the front edge of the wing is curved. The reason this front edge is curved and the back edge is not is due to the pressure within the air itself. Imagine cutting something with a knife versus the backside of a spoon. The knife would give you the same type of cut on either side of the utensil, while the spoon would create a different scenario entirely. The curved edge on the wing of a plane lessens the air pressure on the top side of the wing, spreading it out further than a sharp edge would. The curve moves the air up and over, while forcing it back down again and increasing the pressure below. This is what happens as the plane is able to make an upward descent. Wings essentially break the pressure at the top to allow the plane to move upward more easily, while providing additional force and pressure below the wing to assist with lift.

Balance is Essential

As mentioned previously, all the components of a plane and its parts work in balance to allow the wonder that is plane flight to occur. When it comes to steering a plane, it is easy to think about turning right or left just as you would in your vehicle on the road, but it is of course a bit more complicated than that. In order to steer the plane in a certain direction, the pilot is required to tilt the plane or “bank” to the sides, shifting the balance of the plane itself. This shift in balance will result in the plane losing altitude as the pressure shifts around it and lift or pressure is increased on one side stronger than the other.


Whether you own a plane, charter, or just plan to purchase your dream aviation technology in the future, the wonders of plane flight are always an interesting concept to review and understand. Learning about how the plane itself operates and what is possible within the boundaries of what we have discovered helps you understand the importance of the other aspects of plane flight like luggage on the plane, balancing the weight, or even the need for and weight of fuel.

Keep up with all things aviation with Cheyenne Air Center in Las Vegas. We work to provide flight enthusiasts and private plane owners with a beautiful, clean, and functional hangar to house their winged machines of any size. With easy access, amenities, and helpful advice for our tenants, our facilities offer the best option for renting a private hangar in the Las Vegas area.