Friday, May 06, 2011

Flying because of van der Waals

A thought during my recent flight to Boston: The common understanding is that the Bernoulli Principle is what allows a plane to fly.

I beg to differ. The Bernoulli Principle is what gives the wings lift, but they don't lift the fuselage with its passengers and cargo. To get the main body of the plane up in the air along with the wings, you need van der Waals forces. A plane's wings are held on by adhesives, which in this case, adhere due to van der Waals forces.
Why adhesives and not rivets? Adhesives spread out the stresses more uniformly across the entire bonding surface, while rivets would be stress concentrators.


Frank Van Haste said...

OK, John. Now you're in MY house... Bernoulli vs. Newton.

Oh, and BTW, my wings are held on with some serious bolts...and I like it that way.



John said...


I didn't know that that was the case with small planes. I was in a Piper (?) one time some 30 years ago and didn't pay attention. I was being escorted by Federal employees to a jail cell for the night...

(No, the story was most certainly NOT what am I leading you to believe! I've never even had a speeding ticket.)