How Do Gliders Stay in the Air? It is All About Lift
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How Do Gliders Stay in the Air? It is All About Lift

When flying a glider, you ride the air currents. You fly according to the movement and density of the air around the glider. If you fly into a wind current that sweeps upward, your glider will also gain altitude. If you fly into a down current, you will lose altitude. If you are trying to lose altitude, but the air around you is picking up speed and altitude, your glider will also gain altitude.

I think it is just amazing how a motor-less airplane can stay in the air. You can fly around for hours on the thermals. There is a sensation of being free when you are flying in a glider. You don’t have an engine and props pulling your through the air. It’s a completely different feeling, both physically and intellectually. It just feels different. For one thing, it’s quiet. You don’t hear an engine roaring. Staying in flight depends on aerodynamics and the skill of the pilot.

Just as was discussed with an airplane, the faster a glider travels through the air, the less pressure is exerted on the top of the wings, and the pressure is increased under the wings. The glider takes up space in the air, and the air below the glider is pressed down, which increases the pressure which, in turn, creates lift on the wings.

How can a glider fly through the air when it has no engine to pull it through the air? The pilot must position, or angle, the glider in the air to ride the different air currents to increase speed and maintain flight. The pilot angles the glider to increase and decrease speed. Thrust is increased when the glider is angled in a slightly downward position.

When flying a glider, you ride the air currents. You fly according to the movement and density of the air around the glider. If you fly into a wind current that sweeps upward, your glider will also gain altitude. If you fly into a down current, you will lose altitude. If you are trying to lose altitude, but the air around you is picking up speed and altitude, your glider will also gain altitude.

Gliders use wave lift, thermals, and ridge lift to stay in the air. Thermal lift comes from the ground air that is heated by the earth and rises into the sky. These columns of air are very convenient for creating upward lift. Different types of terrain and also large areas of asphalt are great creators of thermal lift, because the heat is absorbed into the earth and then released into the air. Thermal lifts are convenient for a pilot to circle around in the column of warm air until he/she gets to the altitude desired.

Ridge lift travels along the ridges of terrain. The wind essentially flows up and around hills and mountain terrain. Ridge lift doesn’t go as high as thermal lift. If you want to travel a long way, you will do so by following the mountains and hilly terrain, because the air is very stable here and flows in long wavelike currents.

Wave lift occurs over the mountain tops. Instead of flowing alongside the mountainous terrain, wave lift flows over the top of the mountains. Wave lifts can take you very high. You can fly as high as 35,000 feet on wave lift currents.

This article has focused on types of lift that is necessary to keep a glider in flight. The next article will address how to take off and land in a glider.

Image credit: Wikipedia.org

Source:

http://science.howstuffworks.com/transport/flight/modern/glider3.htm

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Comments (2)
Ranked #12 in Science

these plane articles are very interesting

Ranked #9 in Science

THanks Carol. I'm opening up a whole new side of me. I have interests I've never written about before. I feel close to my dad when I write about something that dad and I shared a passion for.

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