Planes are fascinating. For something that weighs tonnes and tonnes, they travel at such high altitudes and fast speeds. Considering a plane can fly pretty high such that it is literally above the clouds; what is stopping it from going higher. Why can’t it fly so high up, that it eventually reaches Space?
How does a plane fly?
To begin to answer our main question, we must first understand how a plane flies. It is all down to its 2 most important components :
A plane’s engines are designed and manufactured to provide a large driving force which pushes the plane forwards at high speeds. If you have been in a plane before, you can feel this driving force when the plane is taking off. As the plane takes its place on the runway and begins to move, you can feel the speed build up very quickly before you are in the air soon after. The plane travels faster when the engine does more work to push the plane forward; this in turn causes more air to go through the engine, which is pushed back towards the plane wings.
A plane’s wings are designed such that air travels faster over them than under. When air from the engines is pushed back, this air travels over the wings. Since the air is travelling faster along the top, it is forced towards the ground due to the design mentioned earlier. This forces the plane up. Essentially, the air that is forced DOWN causes a force that acts UP, which causes the plane fly. This upwards force is known as lift.
The plane’s engines provide the driving force which pushes it forward by pushing air backwards. As a result, the wings produce lift. This lift comes from the air being thrown down due to the shape and design of the wings.
Why can’t we fly a plane into Space?
To make our plane fly higher, the engine must do more work to increase its speed . This increase in speed would cause the wings to generate more lift thus allowing the plane to fly higher. Same applies for when the engine speed decreases; the plane engines slow down which causes a decrease in lift. The force is now not big enough to support the weight of the plane, which causes the plane to begin to land.
As you go higher into the atmosphere, air becomes more sparse – in other words, less dense. This means the engine has to do even more work for the air to provide enough lift to further increase the altitude of the plane. Eventually many problems can arise:
Lack of Oxygen
The lack of Oxygen can cause the engines to stop working. Oxygen is required to burn the fuel in the plane to allow for it to continue driving – just like us humans need oxygen to continue to live.
Air becomes too thin
When the air becomes so sparse and thin, lift decreases to the point where it cannot carry the weight of a plane thus causing it to fall back down to Earth.
Due to the air being unstable, it can damage the wings or engines causing the pilot to lose control of the plane. For example, the flaps on the wings can break; these help the plane increase or decrease lift. They can snap off due to vigorous shaking again, due to the unstable air. This would cause rapid loss of control.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to book a holiday with British Airways to visit the moon! If only it was that easy.
If you have any questions, leave them below and until next time, take care.
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