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Flying High
Posted by Rev. Jeff Dixon, Senior Equipping Minister at Covenant Community Church on Feb 1, 2000, 18:47

The best-selling book in America right now is Airframe, a novel by Michael Crichton. (If you don’t like to read, the movie rights have already been bought.) In the book you read the story of an airframe company who has an ongoing investigation into a problem on one of their airplanes that resulted in serious injuries. It is fascinating and, as in many of Crichton’s novels, there is just enough truth to make the story frightening. I was intrigued by some of the tests they ran the airplane through to see if it was “safe.” If you think about airplanes and how they fly—have you ever wondered why it is possible for airplanes to fly upside down?

Remember how a plane achieves lift? Bernoulli’s principle is this...the shape of the wing causes air to move faster across the top of the wing than the bottom. This means lower air pressure above the wing and higher pressure below, and thus lift. So does a plane flying upside down shoot holes in this theory? It would seem logical to think that the minute a plane flipped over it would be sucked to the why doesn’t it happen?

Planes fly upside down by tilting the nose upward. This causes the wings to tilt at a higher angle off the horizontal. (Wings aren’t horizontal in normal flight, they might have 4 degrees of upward tilt. If you flip a plane upside down, the wings will need about 8 degrees of upward tilt to achieve the same amount of lift.) What all this means is that flying is not that tricky. You don’t need a fancy airfoil.

“A barn door will fly through the air,” says John Anderson, an aerospace engineer from the University of Maryland. “You can generate lift and fly it through the air but it generates a lot of drag. It isn’t an efficient aerodynamic configuration.” A cow for example would be hard pressed to get airborne. And once up there the gas mileage would be terrible. (Flying cows of course were featured in the movie Twister, another Michael Crichton story.)

According to Anderson, a plane can fly upside down indefinitely, but with the wing tilted at a higher angle there is more drag created and that means more thrust is necessary to keep the plane in the air. The fuel would run out faster, the pilot might become disoriented and you would want to stay out of the lavatories.

The point? Planes are pretty resilient and awfully sturdy when you get right down to it. Now that I mention it people are too. We are promised by God that we will never be given more than we can handle. Oh, sure, we will go through some turbulence from time to time. But all in all we are tough enough to survive. That is good news when you think about it. But remember the toughness isn’t due to your own strength, it is instead His strength and power that make you resilient.

In other words, be grateful...stay in touch with “the pilot” and He will not let you crash, even when the ride gets a little bumpy. He loves you, really!

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