Skip Navigation

Engineering: Using Newton's Laws of Motion

Author(s): Gregory L. Vogt, EdD, Barbara Z. Tharp, MS, Michael T. Vu, MS, and Nancy P. Moreno, PhD.

Engineering Flight

Airplanes come in many sizes and shapes. Most have a body, one or more sets of wings, a tail section and one or more engines. As long as the plane achieves flight, almost anything goes!

In most planes, lift is generated by the shape of the wings. As a plane moves forward, its wings push air downward. The downward push is known as an “action force.” Simultaneously, the airplane experiences an equal and opposite “reaction force” that pushes it up. Aeronautical engineers call this reaction force “lift.” 

Related Content

  • Think Like an Engineer

    Think Like an Engineer Teacher Guide

    Students follow an engineer's approach as as they identify problems, brainstorm solutions, design, plan, build, test, refine and produce a product or solution. (8 activities)

Funded by the following grant(s)

National Science Foundation

Grant Number: DRL-1028771