How do airplanes fly? This is a question that many of us have asked, but have never really gotten a full answer to. Most people just say it's because of the shape of an airplane wing, but that's not really the answer. If it was, how would airplanes fly upside down? Plus, there's a lot more to flying than just creating lift. I am an aerospace engineering graduate from the University of Maryland, and it took me nearly my full college career to understand how airplanes fly. This is not so much because of the complexity of the phenomenon, but simply because it took that long for someone to give me a good explanation.
This section started as an attempt to answer the above question for non-engineers, but it's expanded a little since then. I'll try to post new articles to this section as I write them, but with as busy as I am with other things, an article a year is an optimistic rate. (If you're really interested in a specific topic, the best way to get me to write more is to send me an e-mail with a specific question, and then I'll turn my response into another article, but even that could take a little while.)
Articles for Beginners:
Introduction to Flight
Gases and Pressure
Rotorcraft Flight Limitations
Theoretical Max Propeller Efficiency
For those of you that want to learn more, I am including links to sites which have accurate descriptions of aircraft flight. Thanks to Jan-Olov Newborg for sending me the links.
Sites accurately describing aircraft lift:
How Airplanes Fly: A Physical Description of Lift by David Anderson and Scott Eberhardt
Misinterpretations of Bernoulli's Law and Physics of Flight - reviewed by Dr. Klaus Weltner
An explanation at the NASA Lewis Research Center site
Irrotational Plane Flows of an Inviscid Fluid by Professor Marco Colombini
Professor Colobini's photo gallery showing flight phenomena