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Flight -Fact Files

While birds have been flying for millions of years, it’s
something relatively new to humans and we rely on some important scientific
principles to achieve it.
Beginning with simple kites, humans have moved on to develop
gliders, airships, helicopters, commercial planes and even supersonic flight.
Supersonic flight (breaking the sound barrier) is achieved
when an object travels at a speed faster than sound (1235kph, 768mph).
The Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, were American
aviation pioneers who created the first successful airplane, thanks in part to
their invention of 3-axis control, enabling the pilot to effectively control
the plane.
While a number of flight pioneers were working on their own
powered flight at the time (including New Zealand’s Richard Pearse) the Wright
Brothers are widely credited with the first controlled and sustained human
flight on December 17, 1903.
Planes have wings that feature an airfoil (aerofoil) shape,
this is important as it helps overcome the effect of gravity pulling down on
the plane.
The wing creates lift as it moves through the air, a process
that can be explained by Bernoulli’s principle. Because of the airfoil shape,
air flows faster over the top than the bottom, creating higher pressure
underneath the wing which then pushes the plane up through the lower air
pressure.
Disturbed air and friction create drag as the plane moves
forward, slowing it down.
An engine provides thrust to move the plane forward at a
speed great enough to overcome drag and allow the wings to create the lift
necessary to fly.
Airships and blimps are lighter than air and use buoyancy
for flight. They are typically filled with gas (such as helium) that is less
dense than the surrounding atmosphere.
The only living things capable of powered flight are
insects, birds and bats.
While some can glide, bats are the only mammals that can
achieve sustained level flight.
Flying fish have been known to glide for hundreds of metres
thanks to enlarged fins that act like wings. Check out this cool flying fish
video!
And if you really want to be amazed check out a gliding
snake in action!
For more on flight check out our cool flight lesson plans or
try making a parachute.

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