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To get off the ground and stay in the air, a plane needs enough thrust and lift to overcome the forces of gravity and drag. Airplane pilots control their plane's direction and speed by using instruments in the cockpit to manipulate the balance of the four forces of thrust, lift, drag, and weight. The instruments in the cockpit may include control wheels, throttle levers, rudder pedals, a radar display, a systems information display, a direction finder, and an altitude indicator. A control wheel looks something like the steering wheel in a car. Like a car's steering wheel, it can be turned to make the plane turn. To do this it moves the ailerons, the small flaps on the ends of the wings. The control wheel can also be pushed forward or pulled back to move the elevators, the moveable parts on either side of the plane's tail. Elevators are used for takeoffs and landings. The throttle lever controls the power from the plane's engine like the gas pedal does in a car. The engine in a large airplane can burn thousands of gallons of fuel in just one trip. The rudder pedal controls the rudder, located on the middle part of the plane's tail, which is also used for turning. Once the plane is cruising in the sky, the moveable parts, including the ailerons and the large flaps on the wings, are kept in a neutral position to minimize air resistance. The plane's streamlined shape also helps it to cut through the air with as little drag as possible. By manipulating these four main forces - thrust, drag, lift, and weight - in just the right ways, pilots can lift a huge Boeing 747 weighing hundreds of thousands of pounds off the ground. They can make it speed up to hundreds of miles per hour, turn, and slow down, all while carrying hundreds of passengers and tons of cargo. And they can bring it all back down for a smooth landing.

What Makes a Plane Fly?


By Sharon Fabian What makes a plane fly? If you want to become an airplane pilot, someday you will probably need to learn the full explanation in all of its mathematical details. But for the rest of us who just enjoy traveling in a plane once in a while, a simpler explanation will probably do. A plane's ability to get off the ground depends on four main forces and how they interact with each other. These four forces are thrust, drag, lift, and weight. Thrust is the force created by the plane's engine that pushes it forward. It is similar to the force of a car's engine pushing the car down the road. Drag is the force of the wind pushing back on the plane. Airplanes must contend with the force of drag whether or not it is a windy day because, even on a still day, the effect of air movement is created as the plane flies through the air. Drag pushes the plane in the opposite direction from the direction of thrust. Lift is caused by the shape of the plane's wings, and it is only produced when the plane is moving. Airplane wings have a special shape that looks something like a curved raindrop when you view a cross section of the wing. This shape is known as an aerofoil. With an aerofoil, lower air pressure is created on the top side of the wing. The higher pressure on the bottom side of the wing pushes the plane upward. Weight is the force of gravity pulling the plane back down to earth. Weight pulls in the opposite direction from lift.

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What Makes a Plane Fly?

5. A control wheel is ______. A. a plane's landing gear B. a wheel on the vehicle that pulls a plane out onto the runway C. a plane's wheel D. like a steering wheel on a plane 6. ______ are small flaps at the ends of a plane's wings. A. elevators B. throttles C. rudders D. ailerons 7. Name the four forces that are important in making a plane fly.

Questions
1. The force created by a plane's engine that pushes it forward is called ______. A. thrust B. weight C. lift D. drag 2. The force of moving air that pushes back on a moving plane is called ______. A. drag B. weight C. lift D. thrust 3. The force caused by gravity pulling down on a plane is called ______. A. weight B. lift C. thrust D. drag 4. The difference in air pressure above and below the wing of a moving plane produces ______ A. drag B. thrust C. weight D. lift

8. Why are airplanes made in a streamlined shape?

Have you ever flown in an airplane? If so, describe your experience. If not, write a paragraph predicting what it would be like to fly.

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Some people are good at one type of job, and some people are good at another. What are some characteristics that you think a good airplane pilot should have?