This interactive activity from NOVA allows you to explore the important forces of lift and drag and how they affect everything from airplanes to wind turbines. In order for an object to move through the air in a stable manner, it must balance four forces: lift, gravity, thrust, and drag. Lift and drag arise as air moves over and past an object like an airplane wing. The special shape of a wing that enables it to fly is called an airfoil. Airfoil design varies depending on the purpose of the object. Learn about the wings used on different types of planes, as well as airfoils used on helicopters, wind turbines, and even race cars.
All lift and drag data for the airfoils in this interactive activity were generated using NASA's FoilSim III software, version 1.3. Data assume average cruise speed for each type of aircraft.
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