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Wings for flight

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Students compare flight capabilities of planes with birds, matching those that are the most similar. Through observation of birds in flight, planes have been designed to have similar capabilities.

Transcript

Birds

Falcon
Falcons are the fastest animals on earth (with the peregrine falcon reaching speeds of over 320 kph). They can tuck their wings in to reduce drag.
Image acknowledgement: Ted Bradford

King vulture
The high aspect ratio wings allow king vultures to spend hours in flight, soaring slowly without flapping their wings. They search for carcasses while riding thermals.
Image acknowledgement: Vaughan Ashby/BirdFindersexternal link

Hawk
Hawks’ wings are wide and rounded at the ends. This low aspect ratio, elliptical shape with separated or slotted feathers at the end allows them precise manoeuvrability.
Image acknowledgement: Brian Wheeler

Albatross
Wandering albatrosses have the longest wingspan of any bird. The long, narrow, pointed wings coupled with low wing loading enable the birds to glide effortlessly on updraughts – sometimes for months at a time.
Image acknowledgement: Tony Linde

Hummingbird
Hummingbirds have the ability to hover in one place by rotating their wings in a figure 8.
Image acknowledgement: DansPhotoArt on flickr/Getty Images. Republication, retransmission and reproduction are prohibited.

Godwit
Migratory birds like godwits have high aspect ratio wings equipped for long ranges and endurance at a relatively fast speed.
Image acknowledgement: Phil Battley

Planes

Spy plane
The high aspect ratio wings of a spy plane allow it to move slowly, not using much energy. This means it can stay airborne for some time while spying out the land.
Image acknowledgement: Richard Seaman

Glider
A glider’s long, slim wings and low wing loading maximises lift, enabling the gliding action.

Swing-wing bomber
This B-1B swing-wing bomber has adjustable wings that can be swept back for high speed. The tight angle of the wings helps to reduce drag, giving it supersonic speed capability.
Image acknowledgement: Juan Manuel Temoche - SPIM Spotters

Spitfire
The elliptical shape of the wings (short and rounded low aspect ratio) give the Spitfire excellent manoeuvrability. They allow the plane to turn sharply while still flying at speed.
Image acknowledgement: Colin Gould

Helicopter
The helicopter has the ability to rotate its wings, enabling it to hover in one place.
Image acknowledgement: 123RF

Airbus
Aeroplanes such as the Airbus or Boeing 747 with high aspect ratio wings have long ranges and endurance times at fast speeds.
Image acknowledgement: John Romero

Results

Peregrine falcon: Spitfire
Read the descriptions again and look carefully. The wing shapes are very different.

Peregrine falcon: Glider
One of these can speed, the other glides slowly. Try again.

Peregrine falcon: Spy plane
Read the descriptions again and look carefully. The wing shapes are very different.

Peregrine falcon: Swing-wing bomber: Speed
Well done! Both the bird and the plane are capable of tightening the angle of their wings to reduce drag and increase speed.

Peregrine falcon: Helicopter
The helicopter rotates its wings. This bird does not. Try again.

Peregrine falcon: Airbus
Airbuses are designed for endurance, peregrine falcons are designed for short bursts of super speed. Try again.

Hummingbird: Spitfire
Read the description again and look carefully. Their capabilities are quite different.

Hummingbird: Glider
Read the descriptions again and look carefully. Their capabilities are quite different.

Hummingbird: Spy plane
Read the descriptions again and look carefully. Their capabilities are quite different.

Hummingbird: Swing-wing bomber
One hovers, the other has supersonic speed capability. Try again.

Hummingbird: Airbus
Airbuses are designed for long-range endurance at speed, quite unlike hummingbirds, which can hover in one place.

Hummingbird: Helicopter: Hovering
Well done! They both have hovering capabilities.

King vulture: Glider
Close. They both have high aspect ratio wings and can soar in thermals, but there’s a closer match. Read the descriptions carefully.

King vulture: Spitfire
King vultures have high aspect ratio wings, while spitfires have low aspect ratio. Try again.

King vulture: Spy plane: Soaring
Snap! Both spend hours spying out the land with their high aspect ratio wings. Well done.

King vulture: Swing-wing bomber
King vultures are designed for slow soaring, while swing-wing bombers have supersonic speed capability. Try again.

King vulture: Helicopter
King vultures can soar without flapping their wings. Helicopters continually rotate their wings. Try again.

King vulture: Airbus
Although both of these have high aspect ratio wings, the airbus is designed for long, fast flight, whereas the king vulture moves slowly.

Albatross: Spy plane
Close. They both have high aspect ratio wings and move slowly, but there’s a closer match that relates to the albatross’s ability to glide.

Albatross: Glider: Gliding
Great choice! Both have long slim wings (high aspect ratio) and low wing loading enabling effortless gliding.   

Albatross: Spitfire
One has low aspect ratio wings and the other high aspect ratio wings. Try again.

Albatross: Swing-wing bomber
One of these is a slow glider, the other has supersonic speed capabilities. Check the wings – they are quite different. Try again.

Albatross: Helicopter
Albatrosses can glide without flapping their wings. Helicopters continually rotate their wings. Try again.   

Albatross: Airbus
Both have high aspect ratio wings, but the Airbus is designed for long-range endurance at speed, whereas the albatross glides slowly.
Try again.

Godwit: Spy plane
Both have high aspect ratio wings, but spy planes are designed for slow movement, whereas the godwit is designed for long endurance at a relatively fast speed. Try again.

Godwit: Glider
Godwits are not designed to glide. Try again.

Godwit: Spitfire
One has high aspect ratio wings and the other low aspect ratio wings. Try again.

Godwit: Swing-wing bomber
Read the descriptions again and look carefully. Their capabilities are quite different.

Godwit: Helicopter
Godwits do not hover or rotate their wings. Try again.

Godwit: Airbus: Endurance
Great match! Although there is a huge difference in size, both these fliers have high aspect ratio wings and are equipped for the long haul at relatively fast speeds.

Hawk: Spy plane
Check out the wings. One has wide and round wings (low aspect ratio) and the other long and narrow wings (high aspect ratio). Try again.

Hawk: Glider
Check out the wings. One has wide and round wings (low aspect ratio) and the other long and narrow wings (high aspect ratio). Try again.

Hawk: Spitfire: Manoeuvring
Superb match! Both have elliptical shaped wings to allow for precise manoeuvrability.

Hawk: Swing-wing bomber
Read the descriptions again and look carefully. Their capabilities are quite different.

Hawk: Helicopter
Hawks don’t rotate their wings. Try again.

Hawk: Airbus
With its high aspect ratio wings, an Airbus is designed for stable, long distance flight. The hawk’s low wing aspect ratio allows for manoeuvrability. Try again.

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