9 Absorbing Sciences Behind Airplane Flight Mechanics

(Last Updated On: July 2, 2017)



Airplane or aircraft are one of the most brilliant topics in science. Everyone like to see flying airplane and fighter aircraft. They like to make conversation on different aircraft’s and their roles in the world.

Read More: New Future Inventions in Aerospace Engineering


Do you have any questions like these?

  • What is aerospace engineering?
  • What is the difference between aerospace and aeronautical engineering?
  • How do airplanes fly?
  • How do airplanes stay in the air?
  • How do airplanes fly in the air?
  • How do airplanes land?
  • How do airplanes fly in rain?
  • How do airplane turn?
  • How do airplane brake when landing?


If you have any one of these questions, then read this post. I am an aeronautical engineer by qualification. I have a technical knowledge of airplane flight mechanics. I will give answers to these questions here.

Let’s start the knowledge tour with aerospace engineering and its related common questions.

Introduction to Aerospace

An aerospace engineering is concerned with designing of both aircraft  and spacecrafts. In other words, aerospace engineering is a parent field where aeronautics and astronautics are their parts.

Aeronautical engineers deal with designing of aircraft and astronautical engineers deals with designing of spacecraft and space probes. Somewhere astronautical engineering is also known as “rocket science”.


1.What is the difference between aerospace and aeronautical engineering?

Aerospace engineering deals with both designing and manufacturing of aircraft and spacecraft while aeronautical engineering is a part of aerospace engineering which deals with designing of aircraft’s.

Aircraft’s can fly on the earth or through the air while spacecraft fly in the space. Both have different design studies. One has to fly through the air, where the atmosphere is different. While one has to cross the escape velocity to enter the space, where the atmosphere is different.

Learn MoreRosetta Mission of European Space Agency

There are some common studies in between aerospace and aeronautical engineering like fluid mechanics,stability and control,structures etc..

An aircraft’s design  contains studies like aerodynamics,aircraft flight mechanics,aircraft system and instrumentation,aircraft performance,aircraft structures,aircraft propulsion etc..

A spacecraft design contains studies,  like aerodynamics,spacecraft engineering,rocket science engineering,etc..


2. What are the names of airplane?

We most commonly like to classify airplane on the base of fixed wing and rotary wing.

Fixed wing aircraft

Fixed wing airplanes have fixed wing,  which provides lift to the airplane like  a Boeing 747. See the figure 1.1 below for more understanding.

Rotary wing aircraft

Rotary wing aircraft’s have rotating wings which also provides the lift. Example of rotary wing aircraft’s are choppers. 

Anatomy of the airplane

Structure of airplane consist of following parts labelled as

  • 1.Fuselage
  • 2.Cockpit
  • 3.Wings
  • 4.Elevator
  • 5.Rudder
  • 6.Landing Gear
  • 7.Engine nacelle
Figure 1.1 Fixed Wing Airplane Control Surfaces

We will discuss about these parts and its functionalities over here later. Now we are getting to know the basics of flight.

The 4 forces play a pivotal role in the flight of aircraft. These 4 forces are lift, weight, drag and thrust. This figure 1.2 shows the application of 4 forces on an airplane here.

4 forces in airplane flight mechanics
Figure 1.2 Four forces acting on airplane

You must also know about these moments of forces on airplane. These moment  are

  • Pitching
  • Yawing
  • Rolling

See this figure 1.3 for more clear understanding. 

Moments of forces in airplane flight mechanics
Figure 1.3 Moments of Forces on Airplane

Airplane Flight Mechanics


3. What is airplane flight profile?

Airplane flight profile is the pattern of flight that begins before takeoff and ends after landing.Every aircraft has flight profile or flight pattern.

  • Taxiing
  • Takeoff
  • Cruise
  • Landing
  • Taxiing
Figure 1.4 Airplane Flight Profile



Loitering is a special condition in airplane flight. This happens when airport runway is not clear or no space on a runway to land. During loitering, airplane hovers around the area of airport till the ATC not give a clear signal of landing on runway.

Read More: NASA Astronaut Space Life


Taxiing is the running of airplane on the airport runway. This procedure goes on before take off and after landing. The rest of the stages of the flight profile, you will understand after viewing this below figure 1.5


4. How does airplane turn on ground?

Nose wheel plays an important role in turning on airplane during taxiing. Nose wheel is located on the left side of the pilot. Nose wheel controls the tail of the airplane which helps in turning of the airplane.Differential braking also play a vital role in turning. Differential braking is a technique where,one brake applied to turn in direction of brake applied.

Figure 1.5 Turning of airplane on ground
5. How do Airplane fly?

Wings of airplane help in flying. Wings are a combination of the airfoil. These airfoils generate lift on the airplane wing. When there is a difference of pressure over the upper and lower surface of airfoil it generates lift on the airfoil.

how do airplane fly- airplane flight mechanics
Figure 1.6 Airplane Primary and Secondary Control Surfaces


6. How do airplane stay in the air?

Primary and secondary control surfaces help in stability and control of the airplane. Aileron, elevator and rudder are primary control surfaces while flaps and slats are secondary control surfaces. Flaps are a high lifting device which maintains the lift of airplane in the air.

7. How does airplane turn in air?

Airplane turn in air with the help of rudder. This process is known as yawing. Turning the airplane in the air requires rudder, which is located on the tail of the airplane.

Figure 1.7 Airplane Turning during Flight


8. How do airplane fly in rain?

Rain is not an issue for airplane flight. Airplane fly in heavy rain also but the thunderstorm,fog and high speed winds are obstacles in flight. Air traffic control gathers the information and data on the weather of  different areas. Pilot of airplane gets the data on weather of different regions on his instrument panel and via radio communication with local ATC.

airplane flight in heavy rain- airplane flight mechanics
Figure 1.8 Airplane flying in heavy rain
9. How do airplane brake when landing?

Spoiler helps in reducing the lift and velocity of airplane.Thrust reversal also helps in reducing the velocity. Landing gear disc  brakes applied to stop the airplane.

Thrust reversal is a concept of using the engine thrust or exhaust to reduce the airplane velocity. The thrust reverser system deployed on the engine helps in deceleration of the airplane.

airplane braking using the spoilers - airplane flight mechanics
Figure 1.9 Airplane braking using the spoiler or air speed breaks
airplane braking system inside the cockpit- airplane flight mechanics
Figure 1.9 Braking System Inside the Cockpit of Airplane

Aircraft Performance

Bonus Topics

There are lots of terms in aircraft performance, but here we come to know about the most important terms in airplane performance


Range defined as total distance (with respect to the ground) covered by the airplane on fuel tank.

range-of-aircraft-airplane flight mechanics
Figure 1.10 Airplane Performance Measurement with Range



Endurance defined as the total time that an airplane stays in the air on a tank of fuel.

Note: The parameters that maximize range and endurance are different for propeller and jet powered aircraft.

range and endurance calculation in airplane flight performance
Figure 1.11 Range and Endurance


Aerospace engineering is developing around the world. May be we have more configuration and control surfaces on airplane in coming years. These are the basics of  airplane flight mechanics.

I hope you all are satisfied with my answers. If you have any more queries, use the comment box.

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