Flying Machines

Have you ever thought about how an aeroplane or an animal can fly through the air? Surely the gravitational force would push them down? Take a look at some of the amazing achievements in flight over the past few centuries and find out where it has landed us today!

HelicopterHelicopter flight

A helicopter is a machine that can fly in any direction: forward, backward, upward or sideward. It can even hover over a single spot! To understand how this is done, we must understand how a helicopter flies…
A helicopter has two pairs of propellers - the larger ones at the front above the cabin, along with a smaller one at the tail. The larger ones help in flying while the smaller ones stop the helicopter from spinning round when the big blades are turning.
As the propeller blades of a helicopter slice through the air, it creates a strong wind. The wind moves downward pushing the helicopter, but the air beneath the blades has greater pressure than the air above them. The blades are then twisted slightly so that air is forced downward, creating lift!
Helicopters can make sharper turns than aeroplanes and they don't need a long runaway to take off or land - they can even land on top of a building! In India, the armed forces use helicopters for many different jobs because of their maneuverability. They are ideally used to transport people to places hard to reach easily: people trapped in jungles or mountains; patients to hospitals; or to rescue people in floods and landslides. In certain countries, helicopters are also used to monitor traffic conditions and even by the police to catch criminals!
Helicopters and aeroplanes aren’t the only things that can fly, the idea of flight was conceived by watching animals and insects soar through the skies! Check out how these living and breathing wonders have helped advance our technology and transportation…    

Bat flyingThe most successful groups of living things that fly are insects, birds, and bats. Each of these groups' wings evolved independently. The wings of the flying animal groups are all based on the forelimbs, but are very different in structure. Those of insects are said to be very modified versions of structures that form gills in most other groups of amphibians. 
Bats are the only mammals capable of sustaining level flight. However, there are several gliding mammals which are able to glide from tree to tree using fleshy membranes between their limbs…some can travel hundreds of metres in this way!
Flying fish can glide using enlarged wing-like fins, and have been observed soaring for hundreds of metres using the updraft on the leading edges of waves. It is thought that this ability was chosen by natural selection because it was an effective means of escape from underwater predators. The longest recorded flight of a flying fish was 45 seconds…whoa!
Most birds fly, with some exceptions such as the largest birds, the ostrich and the emu which are earthbound. The non-flying penguins have wings adapted for use under water and use the same wing movements for swimming that most other birds use for flight.
Among living animals that fly, the wandering albatross has the greatest wingspan, up to 3.5 meters; and has the greatest weight, topping at 21 kilograms!!!
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the word ‘Gravity’ before, it stops us from floating off into space…but do you know exactly what it is? 
Every object in the Universe attracts every other object in the universe. This invisible force for masses to move toward each other is called ‘Gravity’.
When you weight yourself, your weight may be around 30 to 50kg because of Gravity. This weight is the result from the product of the force of gravity and the mass of you!

More interesting flight facts

  1. In 1852, Henry Giffard from Paris created the first powered and controlled flight in a dirigible (a balloon that can be steered); it was powered by steam.  This inventor is known as the ‘father of the airship’.

  2. An inventor from Britain, George Cayley, was the first person known to consider the modern-day heavier-than-air flight. In 1853, Cayley made the first gliding flight in history
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  4. In 1891, after studying the flight of birds for many years, a German man named Otto Lilienthal made the first successful glider.  He realised that the wings had to be curved, that birds took off in wind and that the life was directly dependent upon the speed of the bird.
  5. In 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright (from Ohio), made the first powered, sustained and controlled heavier-than-air flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Orville and Wilbur, after mastering the glider, added an engine, propellers and two sets of wings to construct the ‘Flyer’.
  6. In 1927, Charles Lindbergh completed the first non-stop, solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
  7. In 1932, Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean; in 1935, she became the first woman to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean and in 1937 she began the flight and was about 4000 miles short of her goal when she mysteriously disappeared. 
  8. On March 13, 1940, Sikorsky makes and flies the first practical helicopter.
  9. The Concorde becomes the first supersonic commercial airliner on January 21st in 1976.


Kite flyingKites

A kite is a flying object on a string, that depends on the tension as to how high it will fly! The necessary lift that makes the kite wing fly, is made when air flows over and under the kite's wing. The anchor point of the kite line may be static or moving (e.g., the towing of a kite by a running person, boat or vehicle).
Kites may be flown for fun, art or other practical uses. Sport kites can be flown in aerial ballet (sometimes as part of a competition), whereas Power kites are multi-line steerable kites designed to generate lots of speed which can be used to power activities such as kite surfing, kite landboarding or kite buggying. Did you know that kites towed behind boats can even lift passengers?

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