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Glen Cove Record Pilot • Schools

Middle Schoolers Learn The Physics Of Flight

On Nov. 4, seventh-graders got a special treat when guest speaker Captain Wile, a pilot with Southwest Airlines (and a father in the community) visited North Shore Middle School to teach about the Physics of Flight. 


As part of the forces unit in science, the students eagerly listened to Captain Wile as he explained how airplanes fly by utilizing the Four Forces of Flight including lift, gravity, thrust, and drag. Captain Wile discussed Bernoulli’s Principle and

Newton’s Law in relation to flying Boeing 737 airplanes. 


Bernoulli’s principle helps explain that an aircraft can achieve lift because of the shape of its wings. They are shaped so that air flows faster over the top of the wing and slower underneath. Fast moving air equals low air pressure while slow moving air equals high air pressure. The high air pressure underneath the wings will therefore push the aircraft up through the lower air pressure. Captain Wile demonstrated this principle utilizing a hairdryer and a ping pong ball. The thrust of air from the hairdryer enables the ping pong ball to float or lift through the air! He also experimented with a piece of paper involving the students. Everyone put a piece of paper to their lips and blew causing the paper to lift rather than go down!


In addition, Captain Wile discussed Newton’s Law by summarizing, “For every action there is a reaction.” In the case of flight, Captain Wile said, “The action is the movement of the airplane as it is thrust through the air. The reaction is when the plane is lifted or propelled up during takeoff.” He said, “Most Boeing 747’s go 140-160 miles per hour during takeoff which is referred to as Weight on the Wings.” The four forces react with one another as thrust overcomes drag as the plane speeds down the runway creating lift during takeoff, overcoming the pull of the earth’s gravity.