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Let us now lay more emphasis on these two aerodynamic forces which are the drag
and the lift, and let us discuss their origin.
What happens if, when rolling in a motor car, we
place one hand outside the car? If the hand is at
right angles to the relative wind, it is attracted
downward by its own weight, and rearward by
wind the drag.
drag Now, let us incline the hand with the palm
down : the downward and rearward forces
Lift decrease. In fact, the drag is effectively reduced
and the lift appears and counteracts the weight. If
we go faster, the lift may reduce the weight to
Figure 1 : Aerodynamic forces

1 Effects of the airflow

What happens around the hand?
For this, let us have a close look at the hand so as
Undisturbed airflow
to observe the airflow around one hand edge.
The airflow divides into two separate streams :
one stream flows over the edge and the other
under the edge, the limit between the two being
referred to as the "stagnation point".
The airstreams generate tangential friction forces
(parallel to the skin surface) opposing the
forward movement.
Undisturbed airflow These airstreams also generate normal pressure
forces (perpendicular to the skin surface) :
Figure 2 : From the hand to a wing negative pressures on the upper surface of the
hand and positive pressures on the lower surface.
Besides, the positive pressure flow is decelerated and the negative pressure flow is
To summarize, we may say that the friction forces generate the drag (projection of all
force elements onto the direction of the infinite flow) and the pressure forces generate
the lift (projection of all force elements onto the perpendicular to the infinite flow).
The sum of the lift and drag will be referred to as the Aerodynamic resultant.
2 Effect of the angle of attack on the aerodynamic resultant

low angles of attack

normal angles of attack

upper surface We saw above that the fact of

Leading edge changing the angle of the hand to
Angle of attack the relative wind causes the lift
stall and drag to be modified. Why?
Pitch Lower surface Trailing edge In fact, the airflow around the
airfoil varies with the angle of
attack :
Figure 3 : Effect of the angle of attack
at an average angle of attack, we have a certain lift and a certain drag,
at a low angle of attack, the lift decreases (less positive pressure) together with the
at a high angle of attack, vortices occur aft of the upper surface. The airsteam has not
enough energy to remain close to the airfoil and separates from the latter by
forming randomly positioned vortices. These vortices first generate a positive
pressure which is applied to the skin, and then a negative pressure in the same
location. The lift varies with time, the airfoil "stalls" and provides no more lift.
3 Other factors affecting the aerodynamic resultant

speed We have seen that the angle of attack is a

determining factor as regards the value of
the lift and drag. Other factors also play a
role :
Surface area
Airfoil shape the airfoil shape : the figure shows
Lift Drag typical airfoil shapes and their effect
- - on the Aerodynamic Resultant (thin
+ + Density airfoil for fighters, thick airfoil for
+ - airliners, laminar airfoil for gliders
at low speeds, self-stable airfoil for
+ + flying wings),
Figure 4 : Other factors affecting aerodynamic the speed
the surface area (the force is not the same with a bare hand than with a hand in a
baseball mitt)
the density of the surrounding medium (the force is not the same with a hand
immersed in water than with a hand in ambient air at 13,000 ft (4000 m)).
4 Controlled factors
Among these 5 parameters affecting the aerodynamic resultant, only 3 are used to
control an aircraft :
modification of the surface area : use of wing flaps on airliners,
modification of the airfoil shape : use of control surfaces, slats, etc.
change of the angle of attack :
5 Aircraft control
It is now easy to control the
Banking aerodynamic forces : it only consists in
changing :
the angle of attack,
the surface area,
the airfoil shape,
of a part of the aircraft called the
"control surfaces".


Figure 5 : Aircraft control

5.1 Control stick command

By moving the control stick laterally to obtain a differential deflection of :
the ailerons : control surfaces located at the end of the wings for an aircraft fitted with
a tail unit,
or of the elevons : same type of control surfaces as the ailerons but which are also used
as elevators for an aircraft not fitted with a tail unit,
we increase the lift on the side where the control surface is depressed and we decrease
it on the side where the control surface is raised.
The overall result is that the aerodynamic resultant becomes inclined toward the side
where that control surface is raised (it follows the control stick), and a deviatory
component appears and causes the aircraft to turn. The turn results from the banking
By moving the control stick longitudinally to deflect the elevators (or elevons), we
locally modify the lift at the relevant control surface, thus causing the aircraft to pivot
about its center of gravity.
5.2 Rudder
By controlling the rudder through the rudder pedals, we modify the shape of the
vertical stabilizer airfoil, thus creating a lift which will cause the aircraft to pivot about
its vertical axis (caution : this action is not sufficient to turn, since it only causes the
aircraft to skid, as a motor car on an icy surface).