Help For Fear of Flying: Aerodynamics Explained

Many flying fears stem from a lack of understanding of aerodynamics, and how the aircraft stays in the air. In this article I’m going to explain the basics for you, to help you gain more knowledge on the subject and overcome your fear of flying.

It’s a common misconception that the aircraft’s engines keep the plane in the air, whereas it’s actually simple aerodynamics at work. A huge jet aircraft (such as a 435ton Boeing 747) can glide to safety with NO ENGINE POWER.

The probability of losing all engines on a commercial aeroplane is minuscule to say the least – but even in the unlikely event of it happening, you can still land perfectly safely.

So, why have engines?

The engines simply keep the aircraft in the air for a longer period of time – and provide the necessary thrust to take-off.

The basics of aerodynamics are split into these four forces;

Lift – Thrust – Weight – Drag

For a aircraft to fly straight, and at a constant speed, then thrust must be equal to drag, and lift must be equal to weight. Sounds slightly technical I know!

The lift is mainly provided by the wings, and it’s the lift that keeps the aircraft in the air. Whereas thrust is important to reach your destination, it only acts as a controller of speed (by compensating for the drag).

If thrust is less than the drag, the aircraft will slow, and descend. But, the wings are still providing lift, which in turn is keeping the plane airborne, therefore, the descent will be slow.

That is the basic explanation of how a huge jet aircraft can glide – even with complete engine loss.

Air is a Liquid? Not Quite..

Air behaves in a very similar way to water – and the mathematical relationships are identical. Therefore, flying is very similar to swimming. In fact, many aerodynamic tests are carried out underwater.

I hope that all makes sense. The reason I’m sharing this with you, is that your flying fear may be related to the fear of the aircraft falling out of the sky. Now you can be rest assured that this can not happen – even in the highly unlikely event of a complete loss of engine power.

I will be covering the excellent reliablility of modern jet engines in future articles, so stay tuned. I’ll also be covering aerodynamics in more detail soon……

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Comments

  1. kathy aubuchon says

    Hi,

    I am flying in June on the 19th to Phoenix from Mass andhave been in anxiety mode for 3 days ready to cancel my flight with my husband and 2 kids! I am crying because reading this info has taken so much pressure off me and answered so many questions I was thinking of. I am claustrophic and that is one of my main concerns but I am also fearful of everything going wrong and that is a struggle I think with alof of fearful flyers. I am gonna keep reading this info until I leave to really soothe my mind. Wow, 1 in 5 million flights end in tragedy, I only fly like every 6 years so I should be ok right? LOL Thanxs for all these nice articles and understanding of the plane etc….

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