Can Planes Be Brought Down by Sheer Weight

Next time you fly, take note of the other passengers in the boarding area. How many do you think weigh 170 lbs? Now I am in pretty good shape and whenever I fly any simulators for my plane games I’ve never had a single overweight passenger! I am about 6 feet tall and weigh 190 pounds. If you run the BMI (Body Mass Indicator) calculator, you will see the government thinks I am overweight, not obese but overweight. Good grief, they think I need to lose another 30 plus pounds.So why am I bringing my weight in an airliner story? Safety. There are four forces at work when an airplane flies. Thrust versus drag. Gravity versus lift. When all four are in balance, the plane flies.

When they are not, trouble. When the plane is roaring down the runway, it is trying to generate huge amounts of lift to overcome gravity and leap into the air like a big tin bird. Nice. Lift is generated on top of the wing. Sorry folk, the song about lifting under the wing is wrong. The difference of the distance air has to flow over the top of the wing compared to the flow under the wing creates lift. The captain will put some flaps down, and in some cases some slats on the front of the wing, so all of that air has to go a longer distance over the top than the bottom to generate more lift.

When the flaps and slats are down, we say the plane is dirty. When the flaps and slats are up, the plane is clean. The plane needs to be dirty to generate lots of lift for takeoff and for landing.Now consider thrust and drag. In order to generate all of that lift in the dirty condition, you need lots of power. That is why everything is rattling like it does. The throttles are pushed way up there. But what happens, God forbid, if one of those powerful engines quits?

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