Up, Up, and a Sleigh
Perry Como, the dude who sings Home for the Holidays, is not a normal guy. Surely there is no place like home for the holidays, but never, ever, in a million years can traffic be classified as ‘terrific.’ For those of us who want to avoid Como’s terrific traffic and have the luxury of hopping on an airplane, we can trade stress inducing car rides for a classic ‘will-I-won’t-I’ get through security on time to make the flight. If Santa Claus gives you a dollop of Christmas luck and you make it on time, as you are drifting off into that sweet liftoff until refreshments power nap, you might think to yourself, “How the heck do airplanes stay in the air?”
Basically it comes down to opposing forces that cancel each other out. Imagine you have a flat umbrella to shield yourself from a windless rain storm. You have equal number of air molecules dancing all around your umbrella and colliding into it. So long as you aren’t walking, you don’t feel much force on it. You decide to go inside so you tilt your umbrella back to see better as you walk. All of a sudden you feel a slight pull on your umbrella. When you give your umbrella an incline, you put more air molecules on the under side than on the top. Those air molecules on the bottom hit your umbrella harder than those on the top as you walk, giving it the lift force you feel in your hand.
While you may not be able to Mary Poppins your way around, the same idea applies with planes. When you are finally cleared for departure and making that mad dash down the runway, the pilot adjusts the wings so that there are more air molecules that are colliding with higher intensity on the bottom of the plane than those on top. Or, in other words, a high pressure system is created below the plane and a low one is created on top. Eventually, the lift force counters the force of gravity from the plane and your 49.5 pound bag, and you have liftoff! Once at a particular altitude, the pilot can adjust the lift force to be equal to that of the force of gravity and there you chill with your headphones and peanuts.
So next time flying feels like a drag, remember the power of the air molecules to lift your spirits. Or drink some ginger ale aka magic sky juice.