How Do Planes Stay In The Air?

It can be completely mind blowing to think that a huge plane can somehow stay in the air. So how exactly does a plane stay aloft?

How Do Planes Stay In The Air?

Well, planes don’t just fly because they are powered by engines or propellers.

They fly because of their shape. The wings create lift, allowing them to rise into the sky.

The shape, weight, and speed of the plane all contribute to help it take off, flying for miles, and then safely land. In this article, we discuss the science and engineering which allow aviation to occur.

What Are The Four Forces Of Flight?

The four forces of flight are Drag, Thrust, Weight, and Lift. These forces work together to make an aircraft move through the air.

Drag is the force exerted on an object which pushes against the direction of motion. It

is caused by friction between the object and the surrounding medium. In the case of aircraft, drag is created by wind and air particles, and this drag causes the plane to slow down.

Thrust is the force created by the engine propelling the plane forwards in the direction of motion, through the air.

The jet engine and propellers generate the necessary thrust that forces the plane forward.

Weight is the force acting downwards on the plane due to gravity. Gravity pulls the plane towards Earth. The bigger the plane the greater the gravitational pull.

Lift is the upward force generated by the airplane wings as it moves through the air. This creates the lift that allows the plane to fly.

Lift can be affected by the speed at which the plane moves, the angle that the plane is pointed at, the size and span of the wings, and the air pressure around the plane.

How Do Planes Stay Up In The Air?

For a plane to stay up in the air, the forces of lift and thrust must be greater than those of weight and drag.

The design of the plane is specifically adapted to aid this, so that planes are as lightweight, powerful, and aerodynamic as possible.

In fact, aircraft manufacturers spend billions of dollars every year developing new designs and materials to improve efficiency and reduce fuel consumption.

For example, Boeing has developed a carbon fiber composite material called NextGen that reduces aircraft weight by 30%.

How Do The Parts Of A Plane Help It Fly?


The wings of a plane are designed to provide lift. This is achieved through the principle of aerodynamics. They are wide so that lots of air passes under them.

The upper side of the wing has a curved surface so that air particles pass easily over them, creating lower air pressure.

The underside of the wings is flat so that air particles pass less freely creating higher air pressure.

When thrust forward at high speed, this innovative design tips the balance of forces so that the air pressure difference beneath the wings lifts the whole craft off the ground.

Without this curved shape on the upper side of the wings, a plane cannot sustain flight.

Engine And Propellers

The engine powers the propellers. The propellers turn the engines into mechanical energy so they can move the plane forward.

The propulsion system converts the mechanical energy produced by the engine into electrical energy to turn these propellers.


Throttles are levers that control the amount of thrust coming from the engine. An auto throttle adjusts engine power based on airspeed.

As the plane gains altitude, the throttle opens more. As the plane descends, the throttle closes.

Rudder Pedals

Once airborne, the pilot controls the plane using the rudder pedals. These devices control the direction of the rudder. These control the angle at which the plane banks.

When the plane banks too much, the nose would point down. If the nose pointed up, the plane would stall.

Rudder pedals are also used to control the direction of the plane.

A rudder pedal moves the rudder left or right. Rudder pedals can be found either above or below the center console.

Above the center console, they are known as “upper” pedals. Below the center console, they’re known as “lower” pedals.


The fuselage is the main body of an airplane. It contains all the systems and equipment needed for flight.

How Do Planes Stay In The Air?

The fuselage also provides protection from the elements.

The fuselage holds everything inside the plane. It protects plane passengers from the weather and keeps them safe.

Tail Fin

The tail fin stabilizes the airplane in flight. It helps keep the plane level and prevents it from rolling over on its side.


Ailerons are hinged flaps located near the trailing edge of each wing. They help direct the airflow around the wing during takeoff and landing.


Elevators are hinged flaps that extend out from the leading edges of the wings. They help maintain a proper pitch attitude.


These small fins at the tips of the wings improve performance.


This device attaches the nose of the plane to the main landing gear.

Landing Gear

The landing gear supports the plane while it’s on the ground and when it lands.

There are two types of landing gear: tricycle and fixed. Tricycle landing gears have three wheels. Fixed landing gears have only one wheel.

How Do Planes Stay In The Air?

The flight controls allow a pilot to fly the plane. They are located in the cockpit where pilots sit and operate the plane.

Instruments show information about the plane, like fuel levels and altitudes.

The control system directs the movement of the plane.

However, for the majority of the time that a plane is in flight, it is controlled by an autopilot system. An autopilot system automatically flies the plane during takeoff and landing.

An autopilot system uses sensors to detect obstacles such as trees, buildings, and other planes. Autopilots may use GPS technology to determine where they want to go.

Final Thoughts

Modern science and engineering mean that aircraft can stay in flight for longer than ever.

Innovations in design and technology are always improving the efficiency and reliability of our planes.

Jacob Stern
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