Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge Aerodynamics of Flight Forces Acting on the Aircraft

 Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge Preface Acknowledgements Appendix Glossary Index Weight Gravity is the pulling force that tends to draw all bodies to the center of the earth. The CG may be considered as a point at which all the weight of the aircraft is concentrated. If the aircraft were supported at its exact CG, it would balance in any attitude. It will be noted that CG is of major importance in an aircraft, for its position has a great bearing upon stability. The location of the CG is determined by the general design of each particular aircraft. The designers determine how far the center of pressure (CP) will travel. They then fix the CG forward of the center of pressure for the corresponding flight speed in order to provide an adequate restoring moment to retain flight equilibrium. Weight has a definite relationship to lift. This relationship is simple, but important in understanding the aerodynamics of flying. Lift is the upward force on the wing acting perpendicular to the relative wind. Lift is required to counteract the aircraft's weight (which is caused by the force of gravity acting on the mass of the aircraft). This weight (gravity) force acts downward through the airplane's CG. In stabilized level flight, when the lift force is equal to the weight force, the aircraft is in a state of equilibrium and neither gains nor loses altitude. If lift becomes less than weight, the aircraft loses altitude. When lift is greater than weight, the aircraft gains altitude. Lift The pilot can control the lift. Any time the control yoke or stick is moved fore or aft, the AOA is changed. As the AOA increases, lift increases (all other factors being equal). When the aircraft reaches the maximum AOA, lift begins to diminish rapidly. This is the stalling AOA, known as CL-MAX critical AOA. Examine Figure 4-9, noting how the CL increases until the critical AOA is reached, then decreases rapidly with any further increase in the AOA. Before proceeding further with the topic of lift and how it can be controlled, velocity must be interjected. The shape of the wing or rotor cannot be effective unless it continually keeps "attacking" new air. If an aircraft is to keep flying, the lift-producing airfoil must keep moving. In a helicopter or gyro-plane this is accomplished by the rotation of the rotor blades. For other types of aircraft such as airplanes, weightshift control, or gliders, air must be moving across the lifting surface. This is accomplished by the forward speed of the aircraft. Lift is proportional to the square of the aircraft's velocity. For example, an airplane traveling at 200 knots has four times the lift as the same airplane traveling at 100 knots, if the AOA and other factors remain constant. Actually, an aircraft could not continue to travel in level flight at a constant altitude and maintain the same AOA if the velocity is increased. The lift would increase and the aircraft would climb as a result of the increased lift force. Therefore, to maintain the lift and weight forces in balance, and to keep the aircraft straight and level (not accelerating upward) in a state of equilibrium, as velocity is increased, lift must be decreased. This is normally accomplished by reducing the AOA by lowering the nose. Conversely, as the aircraft is slowed, the decreasing velocity requires increasing the AOA to maintain lift sufficient to maintain flight There is, of course, a limit to how far the AOA can be increased, if a stall is to be avoided. All other factors being constant, for every AOA there is a corresponding airspeed required to maintain altitude in steady, unaccelerated flight (true only if maintaining "level flight"). Since an airfoil always stalls at the same AOA, if increasing weight, lift must also be increased. The only method of increasing lift is by increasing velocity if the AOA is held constant just short of the "critical," or stalling, AOA. Lift and drag also vary directly with the density of the air. Density is affected by several factors: pressure, temperature, and humidity. At an altitude of 18,000 feet, the density of the air has one-half the density of air at sea level. In order to maintain its lift at a higher altitude, an aircraft must fly at a greater true airspeed for any given AOA. Warm air is less dense than cool air, and moist air is less dense than dry air. Thus, on a hot humid day, an aircraft must be flown at a greater true airspeed for any given AOA than on a cool, dry day. If the density factor is decreased and the total lift must equal the total weight to remain in flight, it follows that one of the other factors must be increased. The factor usually increased is the airspeed or the AOA, because these are controlled directly by the pilot. Lift varies directly with the wing area, provided there is no change in the wing's planform. If the wings have the same proportion and airfoil sections, a wing with a planform area of 200 square feet lifts twice as much at the same AOA as a wing with an area of 100 square feet.

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