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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.

Newton's Third Law of Motion

Most airplane wings are curved on top, flat on the bottom and tilted slightly downward towards the back. The forward edge of the upper surface is rounded, while the backward edge of an airplane wing is gently sloped.

As a plane moves forward, some air moves above its wings and some flows beneath the wings. Because the upper surface is curved, air pressure over the wing is reduced by the airflow. This causes the air to bend downward as it passes the wing’s trailing edge, producing a downward force. At the same time, air beneath the wing also is pushed downward by the slightly tilted underside. The downward force produced by the upper and lower wing surfaces creates the opposite and equal force that lifts the plane off the ground.

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Funded by the following grant(s)

National Science Foundation

Grant Number: DRL-1028771