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How does an airplane fly? Why is it that the air traveling over the top of the wing has to reach the end of it at the same time that the air traveling underneath the wing reaches it?

The idea that the air traveling over the top of the wing has to reach the end of the wing at the same time as the air traveling along the bottom of the wing is only partly right. The reason this explanation is usually used because it is the easiest to understand.

This is a better explanation. For an object to go up, something has to push it up. A wing works by changing the direction of the air. (See picture.) The wing pushes downward on the air, and the air pushes back. This lifts the wing. The shape and angle of the wing are very important in how much air gets turned downward. When more air is turned downward, there is more lift.


Submitted by Bob (Maryland, USA)
(August 2, 1999)



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