Lift Lift

The pilot can control the lift. Any time the control wheel is more fore or aft, the angle of attack is changed. As angle of attack increases, lift increases (all other factors being equal). When the airplane reaches the maximum angle of attack, lift begins to diminish rapidly. This is the stalling angle of attack, or burble point.

Before proceeding further with lift and how it can be controlled, we must now interject velocity. The shape of the wing cannot be effective unless it continually keeps "attacking" new air. If an airplane is to keep flying, it must keep moving. Lift is proportional to the square of the airplane's velocity. For example, an airplane traveling at 200 knots has four times the lift as the same airplane traveling at 100 knots, if the angle of attack and other factors remain constant.

Actually, the airplane could not continue to travel in level flight at a constant altitude and maintain the same angle of attack if the velocity is increased. The lift would increase and the airplane would climb as a result of the increased lift force. Therefore, to maintain the lift and weight forces in balance, and to keep the airplane "straight and level" (not accelerating upward) in a state of equilibrium, as we increase velocity we must decrease lift. This is normally accomplished by reducing the angle of attack; i.e., lowering the nose. Conversely, as we slow the airplane, the decreasing velocity requires increasing the angle of attack to maintain lift sufficient to maintain flight. There is, of course, a limit to how far we can go in this direction, if a stall is to be avoided.

Therefore, it may be concluded that for every angle of attack there is a corresponding indicated airspeed required to maintain altitude in steady, unaccelerated flight - all other factors being constant. (Bear in mind this is only true if we are maintaining "level flight.") Since an airfoil will always stall at the same angle of attack, if we increase weight we must also increase lift, and our only method for doing so is by increased velocity if our angle of attack is held constant just short of the "critical" or stalling angle of attack.

Lift and drag also vary directly with the density of the air. As previously discussed, density is affected by several factors: pressure, temperature, and humidity. Remember, at an altitude of 18,000 feet the density of the air has one-half the density of air at sea level. Therefore, in order to maintain its lift at a higher altitude an airplane must fly at a greater true airspeed for any given angle of attack.

Furthermore, warm air is less dense than cool air, and moist air is less dense than dry air. Thus, on a hot humid day, an airplane must be flown at a greater true airspeed for any given angle of attack than on a cool, dry day.

If the density factor is decreased and the total lift must equal the total weight to remain in flight, it follows that one of the other factors must be increased. The factors usually increased are the airspeed or the angle of attack, because these factors can be controlled directly by the pilot.

It should also be pointed out that lift varies directly with the wing area, provided there is no change in the wing's planform. If the wings have the same proportion and airfoil sections, a wing with a planform area of 200 square feet lifts twice as much at the same angle of attack as a wing with an area of 100 square feet.

As can be seen, two major factors from the pilot's viewpoint are lift and velocity because these are the two that can be controlled most readily and accurately. Of course, the pilot can also control density by adjusting the altitude and can control wing area if the airplane happens to have flaps of the type that enlarge wing area. However, for most situations, the pilot is controlling lift and velocity to maneuver the airplane. For instance, in straight and level flight, cruising along at a constant altitude, altitude is maintained by adjusting lift to match the airplane's velocity or cruise airspeed, while maintaining a state of equilibrium where lift equals weight. In an approach to landing, when the pilot wishes to land as slowly as practical, it is necessary to increase lift to near maximum to maintain lift equal to the weight of the airplane.