Four Forces of Flight

Four Forces of Flight Aviation & Space Exploration STEM Visual Arts


This image depicts the four forces of flight and shows how each one acts on the object (airplane) as it moves through the air in flight.

Let's look at these four forces of flight in a little more detail, so we can determine what each force of flight actually does:

  • Lift - moves the plane upward 
  • Drag - moves the plane backward
  • Weight (gravity) - moves the plane downward
  • Thrust - moves the plane forward

NASA tells us a bit more about how people fly in planes:

How does a plane fly? Let's pretend that our arms are wings. If we place one wing down and one wing up we can use the roll to change the direction of the plane. We are helping to turn the plane by yawing toward one side.

If we raise our nose, like a pilot can raise the nose of the plane, we are raising the pitch of the plane. All these dimensions together combine to control the flight of the plane.

A pilot of a plane has special controls that can be used to fly the plane. There are levers and buttons that the pilot can push to change the yaw, pitch and roll of the plane.

To roll the plane to the right or left, the ailerons are raised on one wing and lowered on the other. The wing with the lowered aileron rises while the wing with the raised aileron drops.

Pitch makes a plane descend or climb. The pilot adjusts the elevators on the tail to make a plane descend or climb.

Lowering the elevators caused the airplane's nose to drop, sending the plane into a down. Raising the elevators causes the airplane to climb.

Yaw is the turning of a plane. When the rudder is turned to one side, the airplane moves left or right. The airplane's nose is pointed in the same direction as the direction of the rudder. The rudder and the ailerons are used together to make a turn.

Click on the image for a better view.

Media Credits

Image online, courtesy NASA.



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"Four Forces of Flight" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Nov 18, 2018.
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