Thrust & Drag

Thrust & Drag

Thrust is what moves your car or airplane forward. Thrust is applied to a car’s wheels to rotate them and move the car along the road. Thrust is applied to an airplane’s propeller to spin it and pull or push it through the air.

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Drag is a real drag. We all know that a car has more drag when it is moving fast. That’s why racecars are built sleek and slim to reduce the drag. Airplanes are similar—the faster they go the more drag is created and the more thrust is needed to overcome it. This high-speed drag is called “parasite drag.” However, slow speeds for cars and planes are different stories. Letting off the accelerator on your car slows you down and reduces the drag on your car. When an airplane slows down the drag actually increases. In order to fly your airplane very slowly, more thrust is eventually needed. This is called “induced drag,” which is caused by the increased lift need to fly slowly. When we add up the effect of parasite drag and induced drag, the sum is called “total drag.” Airplanes are designed to have a best speed that produces the least total drag for the thrust used. This speed is very close to your cruise speed.

Wing Tips

It speaks for the inherent safety of private airplanes that their average age is nearly 15 years and that there are thousands of planes built 50 or more years ago that are still flying (including mine!).

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide