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Lesson 1.2 Physics of Flight - Key Terms

Key Terms

AileronSmall-hinged sections on the outboard portion of a wing that are used to generate a rolling motion for an aircraft.
AirfoilAny surface, such as a wing, which provides aerodynamic force when it interacts with a moving stream of air.
Angle of AttackThe angle formed by the wing chord line and the relative wind.
Aspect RatioThe relationship between the length and width of a wing.
Boundary LayerA thin layer of air next to the surface of an airfoil which shows a reduction in speed due to the air’s viscosity.
Center of GravityThe common reference point for the three axes of the aircraft.
CockpitThe space in the fuselage of a small airplane containing seats for the pilot, copilot, and sometimes passengers.
ControllabilityThe capability of an aircraft to respond to your flight inputs, especially with regard to attitude and flight path.
DihedralThe mounting of wings so that the wingtips and higher than the wingroot.
DragActs in the opposite direction of flight, opposes the forward-acting force of thrust, and limits the forward speed of the aircraft.
Dynamic StabilityOut of its own accord, an aircraft eventually returns to and remains at its equilibrium position over a period of time.
ElevatorA rear horizontal stabilizer that controls up and down or pitching motion of the aircraft nose.
EmpennageThe tail assembly of an aircraft, including the horizontal and vertical stabilizers, elevators and rudder.
FlapsControl surfaces attached to the trailing edge of the wing extending outward from the fuselage to the midpoint of each wing. Flaps can increase the lifting efficiency of the wing and decrease stall speed.
FuselageHouses the cabin, the cockpit and is a common attachment point for the other major components.
GliderAn aircraft that is designed to fly without an engine.
Horizontal StabilizerA structure that creates up and down forces at the tail to keep the fuselage aligned in pitch with the relative wind. The structure itself is horizontal while the forces it creates are vertical.
High hypersonicAircraft speeds between Mach 10 and 25.
HypersonicAircraft speeds between Mach 5 and 10.
Keel EffectThe flat surfaces located behind the center of gravity tend to weathervane with the wind.
Lapse RateThe rate at which temperature decreases with an increase in altitude.
Lateral AxisThe horizontal line that passes through the center of gravity of the aircraft, perpendicular to its flight path.
Leading EdgeThe part of the airfoil that meets the airflow first.
LiftThe force that created by the effect of airflow as it passes over and under the wing.
Longitudinal AxisA straight line parallel to the length of the fuselage but that runs through the aircraft’s center of gravity.
MMach. A decimal number representing the true airspeed relationship to the local speed of sound.
ManeuverabilityCharacteristic of the aircraft that permits you to maneuver it easily and allows it to withstand the stress resulting from the maneuver.
PitchMotion around the lateral axis caused by deflection in the elevator controlled by moving the yoke forward and aft.
PowerplantConsists of both the engine and propeller in a small airplane.
StabilityAircraft stability is the characteristic of an airplane in flight that causes it to return to a condition of equilibrium, or steady flight, after it is disturbed.
StallCaused by the separation of airflow from the wing’s upper surface resulting in a rapid decrease in lift.
Static StabilityForces and moments on the body caused by a disturbance tend initially to return the body toward its equilibrium position.
SubsonicAircraft speeds under Mach 1.
SupersonicAircraft speeds between Mach 1 and 5.
TaperA reduction in the chord of a wing as measured from the root to the tip of the wing.
ThrustForward-acting force which opposes drag and propels the aircraft through the air.
Trailing EdgeThe last point on an airfoil that interacts with the airflow around the wing.
Reynolds NumberThe ratio of inertial forces to viscous forces.
RollRolling motion about the longitudinal axis caused by ailerons deflecting in opposite directions and controlled by twisting the yoke.
RudderA rear vertical stabilizer that controls side-to-side or yawing motion of the aircraft nose.
Vertical AxisA straight line through the center of gravity of the aircraft and at 90° to lateral and longitudinal axis.
Vertical StabilizerA structure that creates left to right forces to keep the fuselage aligned in yaw with the relative wind. The structure itself is vertical while the forces it creates are horizontal.
Wash In/Wash OutA built in twist in the wing so that the trailing edge at the wingtip is raised (Wash out) or lowered (Wash in). This significantly affects the slow flight and stall characteristics of the wing.
WeightA force caused by the gravitational attraction of the Earth.
WingGenerates the lifting force that helps the airplane fly when air flows around it.
Wing PlatformThe outline shape of a wing when viewed from above.
Wing SpanThe distance from wing tip to wing tip of a wing planform.
YawThe movement about the vertical axis produced by the rudder and controlled by pedals.

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