Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Flight of Heavy Airplanes
Name: James
Status: other
Grade: K-5
Location: New Zealand 
Country: N/A
Date: 5/10/2005

How does a plane fly when it is so heavy?

It is the shape of the wings. People had been trying to fly for the longest time. As often is the case, trial and error led to the shape. When the plane goes fast enough the wind going around the wing produces lift. The combination of speed and the lift enables the plane to overcome its weight and fly.

If you notice birds, when they want to land, the change in their wings brings their nose up and enables a landing, again in combination with lower speed. The flaps on the back of plane wings, do the same thing.

A little story, Gene Sarazen a professional golfer is credited with inventing the sand wedge. Sand bunkers are a hazard on the golf course, because it is difficult to hit the ball when it partially embeds in the sand. The lie is often referred to as a "fried egg", really a "sunny side up" the ball being the yolk. Mr. Sarazen was looking out of the plane window and doing the same thinking about, "How does this fly?" and he made the thought leap that shape of the wing, if applied to a golf club, wouldn't dig into the sand, but skim through. So, he put extra solder on his club and invented the sand wedge. In the tournaments, he put a sock over it so his opponents would not see his invention. But , his success led to his idea being universal. Changed the game, reducing the problem of sand traps.

James Przewoznik

Click here to return to the Engineering Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory