How Airplanes Fly 1968 FAA Basic Aerodynamics; Flight Training, Pilot Training

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“Department of Transportation – Federal Aviation Administration – How Airplanes Fly – NTIS AVA08357VNB1 – What makes an airplane get off the ground and stay in the air? Easy to understand film combines animation and live sequences to explain basic aerodynamics. Forces of lift, weight, thrust and drag are shown in relation to flight.”

Reupload of a previously uploaded film with improved video & sound.

Public domain film from the US National Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and one-pass brightness-contrast-color correction & mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).

Aerodynamics is a branch of dynamics concerned with studying the motion of air, particularly when it interacts with a solid object. Aerodynamics is a subfield of fluid dynamics and gas dynamics, with much theory shared between them. Aerodynamics is often used synonymously with gas dynamics, with the difference being that gas dynamics applies to all gases…


Understanding motion of air (often called a flow field) around an object enables the calculation of forces and moments acting on the object. Typical properties calculated for a flow field include velocity, pressure, density and temperature as a function of spatial position and time. Aerodynamics allows the definition and solution of equations for the conservation of mass, momentum, and energy in air. The use of aerodynamics through mathematical analysis, empirical approximations, wind tunnel experimentation, and computer simulations form the scientific basis for heavier-than-air flight and a number of other technologies.

Aerodynamic problems can be classified according to the flow environment. External aerodynamics is the study of flow around solid objects of various shapes. Evaluating the lift and drag on an airplane or the shock waves that form in front of the nose of a rocket are examples of external aerodynamics. Internal aerodynamics is the study of flow through passages in solid objects. For instance, internal aerodynamics encompasses the study of the airflow through a jet engine or through an air conditioning pipe.

Aerodynamic problems can also be classified according to whether the flow speed is below, near or above the speed of sound. A problem is called subsonic if all the speeds in the problem are less than the speed of sound, transonic if speeds both below and above the speed of sound are present (normally when the characteristic speed is approximately the speed of sound), supersonic when the characteristic flow speed is greater than the speed of sound, and hypersonic when the flow speed is much greater than the speed of sound. Aerodynamicists disagree over the precise definition of hypersonic flow; minimum Mach numbers for hypersonic flow range from 3 to 12.

The influence of viscosity in the flow dictates a third classification. Some problems may encounter only very small viscous effects on the solution, in which case viscosity can be considered to be negligible. The approximations to these problems are called inviscid flows. Flows for which viscosity cannot be neglected are called viscous flows…

Octave Chanute provided a great service to those interested in aerodynamics and flying machines by publishing a book outlining all of the research conducted around the world up to 1893.

Practical flight — early 20th century

With the information contained in Chanute’s book, the personal assistance of Chanute himself, and research carried out in their own wind tunnel, the Wright brothers gained enough knowledge of aerodynamics to fly the first powered aircraft on December 17, 1903. The Wright brothers’ flight confirmed or disproved a number of aerodynamics theories. Newton’s drag force theory was finally proved incorrect. This first widely-publicised flight led to a more organized effort between aviators and scientists, leading the way to modern aerodynamics.

During the time of the first flights, Frederick W. Lanchester, Martin Wilhelm Kutta, and Nikolai Zhukovsky independently created theories that connected circulation of a fluid flow to lift. Kutta and Zhukovsky went on to develop a two-dimensional wing theory. Expanding upon the work of Lanchester, Ludwig Prandtl is credited with developing the mathematics behind thin-airfoil and lifting-line theories as well as work with boundary layers. Prandtl, a professor at the University of Göttingen, instructed many students who would play important roles in the development of aerodynamics, such as Theodore von Kármán and Max Munk…

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