How Airplanes Fly We live in an ocean of air.

This invisible gas surrounds us of which all our motion pervades. Air rarely is motionless (stable). We see its fury (totally unstable), and can enjoy its leisure state that exists between extremes. To obtain the best of the circumstances we have no control over when we fly our model aircraft, we should analyze what we are trying to do when we fly, and embrace the forces of nature with a bit of planning to extract the best this environment has to offer. Gliders: Build them light and they will stay up! Have you seen a empty plastic bag whipped about by a breeze and lofted to height, or dandelion’s fluffy seed or corn shucks take to flight and travel across a field on a nice summer day? This is where the light concept originates. Sink is the vertical rate of travel a body has, Drag is the resistance of motion a body has. The Bag and Fluff are illustrations of flying things that have very little mass so the force of gravity has little effect to accelerate that mass against the resistance of high drag. The missing ingredient with this kind of flight is control i.e. they go where the wind blows; be it laterally - or vertically! All shapes moving through the gas of air will have 3 forces working on them. #1. Is the force of gravity; and it is the motor for the other forces that will occur because of velocity generated. #2. Drag, a square law resistance to the resulting acceleration, will set the velocity in free fall to a terminal value. #3. Lift, a square law value that is created at right angles to the direction of the forms travel. (Lift on a bullets flight is disaster, so the bullet is rotated at high RPM. To reduce the effect of lift, a golf ball has pockets on its surface. However, for things that want to fly, the force of lift is a benefit and thus the concentration.) The next step is the realization that all things falling through our atmosphere which have shape other than round, is capable of having some lift thus an L/D (ratio of lift to drag). Even a bomb can fly on its side area thus changing how steep the dive angle is. The Harm missile is a (unpowered) glider with its small wings yielding a total L/D of 5 (meaning that for every foot vertical, the bomb will fly 5 feet horizontal). The Space Shuttle is far from being an efficient glider inside the earth’s atmosphere; however, it too has enough lateral mobility to land comfortably on large airports runways. It just doesn’t have the ability to “go around again” if it is outside its landing window. Full size aircraft, Space Shuttles, powered models, sailplanes, and Frisbees are all gliders first and foremost, with just shifts in their operating centers. So now we can start looking at our model sailplane glider as a means to slowly descend (sink) from an altitude; and for that sink rate, we are striving for the maximum in horizontal velocity, which we assign the title of Performance. Obviously the slower it sinks the longer it will remain in the air

(Duration). Somewhere between the wing loading of a bit of fluff, and a manhole cover, is the center that we have to select for us to gain advantage for our performance goals. Defining goals for our glider is the next step. If our glider is to soar (ride currents of air for altitude gain) the glider that can do this successfully (consistently) we call it a Sailplane. Low sink is one way to assist stay-up-man-ship; however, duration time becomes erratic because a light ‘fluffy’ machine is unable to be controlled throughout its climb-out for the best efficiency, or where the machine will alight after the flight is over. Although weight is the means to increase airspeed; too much weight limits the circular spiral flight, and increases the sink level to the point it becomes difficult to work the nominal lift. Profile selection is important to experts that need to finesse the greatest performance out of a sink value that has to be lived with i.e. tolerated. This high performance universe is usually in harmony with heavy duty launching equipment, and utilization of the upper air where thermals, and/or slope winds with their related currents, are much stronger and larger in dimension. The typical sport flier; however, is not as critical to potential performance, and his universe that he intends to navigate is much smaller than the competition flier so his concern is more on the utilization and fine tuning a machine that is more in line with his limitations. Now lets go into this basic understanding that a glider slides down a downward glide path because it is pulled by gravity; where a velocity increase is held back by drag so airspeed is limited. The only way to increase airspeed is to make the glide angle steeper and the resulting increased airspeed will regulate again because of the increased drag. Picture a glider flying down a negative 5 degree incline from a horizontal reference. At any airspeed location on this glide path, the wing will present an angle to the stream of air to maintain an amount of lift equal to the weight of the aircraft. This positive wing profile angle (relative to the glide angle) is Alpha (representing Angle of Attack). As the glide angle becomes more steep for higher velocity, Alpha will automatically reduce so as to maintain an amount of lift equal to the aircraft weight. Please understand that lift can exceed weight for a short transient period of time only, and that is due to inertia. After an abrupt change, regulation will occur again for a new set of conditions regardless of cause i.e. change in Alpha or change in glide path (with each parameter effecting the other). To insure this glide path, we have stabilizers on the aircraft that keep things pointed to follow through the travel and maintain direction both vertically and laterally. Changing these stabilizers position relative to the wings profile will initiate the basic control of the glider. Lets continue with the basic tractor design. To better understand how the controls operate, along with stability, and airspeed regulation; we find that the center of gravity is the pivot point for the gliders mass. All controls surfaces attempt to rotate the mass about this center. The CG location relative to the total surface area is what directs the nose of a glider downward. It is a case of gravity being the center of effort; with the center of the total surface area acting as the center of resistance. As the machine builds speed, the horizontal stabilizer generates a small amount of negative lift to counteract the rotating force of the nose weight (center of gravity ahead of the center of resistance). Once the torque of the nose weight is compensated by the negative lift of the stabilizer, the glide angle becomes established. More nose weight will make it fly faster increasing the slope; but will also

increase the overall drag product of the machine because of added stabilizer down load. Obviously for some value of airspeed (that I call Q speed), a balance between ‘nose heavy’ torque, and stabilizer download is needed. This state is called “being in trim”. Basically it is a locked loop situation where the velocity changes linearly, and causes the stabilizer download to change logarithmically; thus the two conditions tend to cancel each other effecting a program that also assists the regulation of Q speed. Airplanes: When adding the engine onto our glider, we are really adding a force that counteracts drag. The 5 degree slope mentioned above is representative of an L/D of 11 to 1 [1/sin 5 degrees]. The amount of drag the glider is demonstrating is 9% of the weight of the aircraft; so to have maintained level flight all we need to have is thrust equal to the drag occurring at the airspeed that yields the basic L/D performance! Now in order to climb our model we only have to increase thrust above that amount. Airspeed will increase a small amount with the added power because of the preset stabilizer trim that has strong airspeed regulation control, and it then becomes a horsepower (Hp) situation of the engine hauling the glider up a steeper slope - that the natural glider sink detracts from. Example: If a glider sinks at 400 feet per minute (landing gear and propeller drag are added on), and it has enough Hp to lift the weight at 1000 feet per minute available, the machine will climb at 600 feet per minute. The greatest rate of climb will occur if Q velocity is close to the maximum L/D velocity of the wings profile. The steepest rate of climb will occur at an airspeed representative of minimum sink. Once we have altitude, and wish to cruise instead of using the thrust to climb, we push the nose over reducing the elevator download (changing trim) and let the machine accelerate while Alpha reduces to match the higher airspeed. typically a model airplane can fly horizontal at all the airspeeds between Q speed and flat out by adjusting throttle - and retriming tailplane. Full size aircraft tend to enjoy the steepest rate of climb, because a pilot aboard helps control this slimy area of low speed envelope - that is difficult to work with by the grounded model pilot. Most powered models are tremendously overpowered, and thus this information is not needed by those that concern themselves with hand eye coordination. But for those of us that get turned on seeing a clipped wing Taylorcraft raise its tail at take off, crawl into the air and replicate Dwayne Cole’s machine in a scale like manner; or watch a model of a P-51 perform more realistically, and have the same manners as the full size machine, concentrating on getting the most of the low speed envelope is not only a efficiency challenge; but the application of an art-form. My first model aircraft chart demonstrates the effect of wing loading of a glider without consideration of additional drag items to a basic configuration (such as landing gear and prop etc). If the airframe weighs in yields a wing loading of 13 ounces per square foot, the nominal Q airspeed will be 21.6 mph (as long as the wing profile is within the range of 6% to 12% thick and has more than 2% camber). Adding extra drag such as landing gear and propeller etc., the airspeed is still 21.6 mph; but the machine flies a steeper glide angle. With a prediction error of 10% we have safely integrated all the various profiles, and the quality to reproduce them, into a surprisingly accurately prediction. Being off a mph or two has no effect for the sport pilot; and is something the experts can beat their gums about

in their search for perfection. Note: Airspeed and Dihedral charts are for Aircraft with Aspect Ratios of 5 - 12 / 1 & Wing area within limits of 4 to 8 square feet (typically). The chart for the Dihedral is an attempt to reset the dihedral angle to a value that would be more in tune with the low speed envelope. Most 3 channel machines are overpowered or overweight, and the dihedral used by the designer was a trial and error situation type of compromise. When we concentrate on slow speed flight we should have our roll rate correct for the performance airspeed rather than the high speed end. Obviously if the machine is to be aileron controlled than the dihedral angle should be 1/2 the chart angle or less (depending on the application). The reason I like to utilize some dihedral (especially for scale type machines) is that they do not have a pilot aboard so the difficulty in coordinated turns where rudder and ailerons are used together via 4 channel (basic) is minimized. We have now progressed to the point that all aircraft are gliders. Once we add power, the airframe become an airplane. An airplane can become a sailplane! If our motorized glider requires additional power than gravity to sustain flight in lift, the low speed idle and be adjusted for any L/D desired for a powered aircraft to simulate a high performance sailplane. Its just that simple. The next chart shows how many Gs we pull when trying to spiral a sailplane tightly in lift. Although the Q center or performance speed was selected for this chart (which is basically the way I fly for maximum rate of climb - via control) it is pretty explicit demonstrating that the heavier the machine, the larger the spiral (because g force increases at velocity squared). Remember 1g equals a 45 degree bank angle, and 2g a 60 degree bank angle (quite severely creating high sink). It also demonstrates that high bank angles, without high airspeed, that the centripetal force can overcome the ability of the wing to hold the machine in the air (i.e. stall)!

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