Videos: Forces on an Airplane

Another, slightly more technical, look at Cayley’s Four Forces of Flight!

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Cayley’s Four Forces

Ueli Gegenschatz: Extreme Wingsuit Flying

Ueli Gegenschatz takes everything we know about aerodynamics and puts it all into a series of brilliant extreme sports experiences in the pursuit of his dream of human flight. You can view this video and think about lift, drag, thrust, and weight, but chances are you’ll be too busy wishing you were there with him!

Says Gegenschatz: “I believe this is probably the closest possibility to come to the dream of being able to fly.”

An Ocean of Air

In 1644, Evangelista Toricelli wrote, “We live submerged at the bottom of an ocean of air.” We don’t feel the force of the pressure of this fluid any more than aquatic creatures feel the force of the water on all sides. Why? Because there is a uniformity of pressure in both cases; gravity exerts pressure on all sides.

Imagine for a moment that everything on the Earth and above its surface could exist under the water, or vice versa, without any change in appearance or properties. If we visualize  horizontal bands atop one another, it would break the habitable area into observable layers. Grass, trees, plants, insects, ground-dwelling animals would all be in the same layer as the plants, crabs, bottom-feeders, and sand dwelling creatures beneath the surface of the ocean. There would be fish swimming in the layer above our heads with the birds. Airplanes would soar further above, in a layer with the whales. Dolphins would escape the surface of the ocean, accompanied by rockets, at the topmost layer above Earth. It would be a jumbled and magnificent scene.  Wait! There’s more!

Four Forces of Flight in Action


Wait! There’s more!

Cayley’s Four Forces

Sir George CayleyIn 1799, Sir George Cayley (1773-1857) designed an airplane that incorporated a fixed wing, a separate propulsion mechanism, and a tail for stability. His design was revolutionary because he was the first to break lift and propulsion into two parts. He understood that the wings would not generate the power by flapping or some other means. Instead, Cayley envisioned a power source that was independent of the wings. He also introduced the concept of camber – curvature – of the wing. Wait! There’s more!

Sir George Cayley

Sir George CayleyIn 1799, Sir George Cayley (1773-1857) designed an airplane that incorporated a fixed wing, a separate propulsion mechanism, and a tail for stability. His design was revolutionary because he was the first to break lift and propulsion into two parts. He understood that the wings would not generate the power by flapping or some other means. Instead, Cayley envisioned a power source that was independent of the wings. He also introduced the concept of camber – curvature – of the wing. Wait! There’s more!

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