FLYING HIGH: Cockpit Confusion
Changing technologies -- such as electronic navigation and monitoring systems -- add to the storehouse of knowledge a pilot must have before taking a seat in the cockpit. When the computerized Airbus A320 and its "fly-by-wire" technology was introduced in 1988, it sparked debate over how much a pilot should rely on computers to control the plane. Experiences since then have given engineers valuable lessons in designing a cockpit that is pilot-friendly and safe.
Activity 1: Good Design/Bad Design
Activity 2: Finding Out About Flight
Activity 3: Math Connection
forces of flight
ACTIVITY 1: GOOD DESIGN/BAD DESIGN
As you see on FRONTIERS, engineers had to redesign the control panel in the cockpit to make it easier and safer for pilots to use.
Find examples of similar good and bad designs in everyday life. For example, could the design of your car's dashboard be improved for the driver? Examine other electronic devices with an eye toward improving their design. Products to evaluate might include a computer, television, VCR or microwave oven. How do good and bad design affect the use and safety of objects?
ACTIVITY 2: FINDING OUT ABOUT FLIGHT
Before you fly, find out more about the physics of flight so you know what is going on while you are cruising at 30,000 feet. When you fly, take a few minutes to think about the remarkable forces acting upon the aircraft. If you sit over or near the wing on your next flight, observe what happens during takeoff and landing. Then, when you return from your flight, add your observations to your knowledge of how it all works.
Forces of Flight:
- What is the function of the wing?
- What is an airfoil?
- How does lift make the airplane fly?
- What causes a plane to stall?
- What do the different flaps on the wing do?
- What effect does ice buildup have on the wing?
- What is meant by "fly-by-wire" technology?
- LIFT: upward force produced as air rushes across the airfoil surface.
- WEIGHT: weight of the craft.
- THRUST: force produced by the engines that drives the craft forward.
- DRAG: frictional resistance of the air.
ACTIVITY 3: MATH CONNECTION
Mathematically, the rate of climb for a slow-speed airplane can be expressed using the following equation:
rate of climb equals Vr(Fe minus D) divided by mg
Where Vr is equal to relative wind speed, Fe is equal to thrust, D is equal to drag, m is equal to the mass of the craft and g is equal to the acceleration of gravity.
Based on the above equation, describe what happens to the rate of climb when:
- The relative wind speed is doubled.
- The drag increases, thrust remains the same.
- Drag is greater than the thrust.
- The thrust increases, drag stays the same.
- Rate of climb doubles.
- Rate of climb decreases.
- Rate of climb is negative, and the craft descends.
- Rate of climb becomes more positive, and the craft ascends more steeply
- Explain how each of the forces of flight can be applied to birds.
- Apply these principles of flight to the model gliders described in the activities for "The Eternal Wing."
- How does the concept of a flying wing, as demonstrated by the Pathfinder aircraft, demonstrate each of the forces of flight?
Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.