Once upon a time in the town of Flightville lived a curious girl named Emma. Emma loved learning silly facts about serious things and serious facts about silly things.
One day when she was walking to school an airplane flew by over head. The entire day she could not stop thinking about how it got way up in the sky. It seemed like such a silly thing for such a big airplane to be moving through the air.
Fantastically and almost magically, as if her mom had read her mind, she asked, How would you like to go see your grandmother for spring vacation? On an airplane? asked Emma. On an airplane! answered her mom.
Emma squealed with delight, she could hardly wait! How would you feel if you were going on an airplane?
Immediately, Emma pulled out her suitcase to pack. As she stuffed the last of her favorite toys into the suitcase, questions began to fill her head.
She couldnt wait to find the answers to all her questions and learn some serious facts!
Emmas adventure began as she took her first step into the airport. This is the terminal, her mom announced.
Here we will check-in with the airline and get a boarding pass. A boarding pass is a special ticket we need to get on the plane. It has all the flight information on one little piece of paper. What kind of information do you think is printed on the boarding pass?
Suddenly, the baggage handler took Emmas suitcase filled with her favorite toys. Wait, where is my suitcase going? It has to come on the airplane with us, said Emma.
Dont worry, her mom reassured. The baggage handlers will bring your suitcase to the airplane and load it from the ramp. The ramp is the part of the airport where the airplane is parked.
Next, they went through an area for security. The airlines want to keep us safe, her mom explained as they went through the security screening detector. Have you ever been through a security screening detector at an airport?
Emma and her mom hopped on a special airport train. Whoosh, whizz and zoom! They sped through the airport.
Emma couldnt believe she was about to get on an actual airplane! An actual airplane with an actual pilot that would fly through the actual air. She was so excited!
At the departure gate, all the other passengers gathered to get on the airplane. Emma showed her boarding pass and enthusiastically boarded the airplane.
The cheerful flight attendant offered her the rare opportunity to sit in the cockpit and meet the pilot.
Fascinating buttons, knobs and controls surrounded the pilot in the cockpit and with her own pilots wings she could pretend that she was flying the plane too. Do you think a pilot uses a map? How do you think the pilot steers?
Emma sat in her special assigned seat and made sure to buckle her seat belt just like the flight attendant told her to do. Then, the airplane began moving down the taxiway. This is where all the airplanes line up and get ready to fly.
The pilot was waiting for the air traffic control tower to give directions and organize all the other airplanes flying into and out of the airport.
Emma and her mom could feel the airplane moving down the runway. Then, the engines roared, the wheels rolled, the airplane shook as they moved faster and faster forward. Emma felt everything tilt back as the airplane gently lifted off and took flight.
Emma looked out the window as all the houses and all the cars became little houses and little cars until the airplane lifted into the clouds.
Emma looked around at all the people with all their bags and had a question that needed to be answered with some serious facts. Mom, how are we flying? There are a lot of people on this airplane, there is a lot of luggage and the airplane is heavy. How does an airplane fly?
Emmas mom explained, An airplane has four forces that act on it in flight. First, there is weight. It is the force caused by gravity. Everything has weight. People have weight, birds have weight and airplanes have a lot of weight.
If everything has weight, how does the airplane fly? asked Emma. Well, her mom answered, thats because of the second force, lift. The airplane is moving so fast that the wings are able to produce lift.
Emmas mom pointed at the wings of the airplane through their window. See how the wings are curved upward?
Emmas mom explained, The shape of the wing is called an airfoil. It helps the air move faster over the top and the air move slower across the bottom. The slower air on the bottom has more pressure than the faster air on the top, so this causes the airplane to be lifted.
Emma thought it over and replied, So, with faster air the pressure is lower and with slower air the pressure is higher? Youve got it! exclaimed her mom.
As Emma gathered more facts, she began to really love flying! So, Emmas mom explained the third force that acts on airplanes in flight.Thrust is the force that moves the airplane forward. The jet engines use a fan to suck in air, which is squashed, sprayed with fuel and lit with an electric spark. The burning gases blast out the back of the engine, which thrusts the airplane forward.
Emma thought about the forces of flight that she learned about so far: weight, lift and thrust. Mom, thats only three, whats the fourth?Drag, it is the opposite of thrust. It is a slowing force caused by the shape of the airplane which hinders the movement through the air. Drag slows objects down, just like a parachute.
Emma pondered the forces of flight and observed, So, for an airplane to fly, you need to have more lift than weight and more thrust than drag. Correct! Emmas mom exclaimed.
At the baggage claim, Emma found her suitcase filled with her favorite toys and saw her grandmother waiting. Here we are! shouted Emma as she ran and gave her grandmother a big hug.
Emma explained how airplanes fly. Its all thanks to the four forces of flight: Weight, Lift, Thrust and Drag. Emma could not contain her excitement as she explained each one.
After all, Emma had discovered many serious facts which made such a big airplane moving through the air seem not so silly after all.