The Science of Airplane Flight
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Charles Watson William H Brown School
54 N Hermitage Street
Chicago IL 60612
After this experience the student should:
1. Be able to define lift, drag, ailerons, rudder.
2. Be able to make a sketch showing the forces which act on an airplane in flight.
3. Be able to explain Bernoulli's principle.
4. Be able to explain how angle of attack is used to increase lift.
5. Be able to identify the control surfaces of an airplane.
6. Be able to explain the movement of air around an airfoil.
Patterns, styrofoam meat trays, scissors, razor blades, sand paper, glue, clay,
paper clips, tooth picks.
Throw a ball into the air a few times then ask:
l. Why does the ball come down?
2. Why is an airplane able to stay in the air?
3 What are the forces acting on an airplane that allows it to stay in the air?
Have students fan themselves with paper, and identify the forces that acted upon
the paper. (thrust, drag).
Have the students hold a piece of notebook paper on the bottom corners. Placing
the paper to their mouths and blow upon it. Then ask:
l. What happens to the paper?
2. Explain your answer.
Have students cut out and put together a puzzle of a plane and compare it with
the labeled model on overhead projector.
Have students make gliders and test fly them. Then ask:
1. Why did the gliders fly?
2. Why did some of the gliders not fly?
Convection box demonstration, use two small juice cans with the ends cut out,
a candle, and a cardboard or wooden box. Use to show up and down drafts.
Pop cans demonstration: have students blow between two pop cans an ask:
1. What happened when you blew between the two pop cans?
Have students build styrofoam airplanes and test fly them and discuss the