This page is intended for college, high school, or middle school students.
For younger students, a simpler explanation of the information on this page is
available on the
Thrust is the force which moves an
aircraft through the air. Thrust is used to overcome the
of an airplane, and to overcome the
of a rocket.
Thrust is generated by the engines of the aircraft
through some kind of
Thrust is a mechanical force, so the propulsion system must
be in physical contact with a working fluid to produce thrust.
Thrust is generated most often through
the reaction of accelerating a
Since thrust is a force, it is a
having both a magnitude and a direction.
The engine does
on the gas and accelerates the gas to the rear of the engine;
the thrust is generated in the opposite direction
from the accelerated gas.
The magnitude of the thrust depends on the amount of gas that
is accelerated and on the
difference in velocity
of the gas through the engine.
The physics involved in the generation of thrust is introduced in
middle school and studied in some detail in high school and college.
To accelerate the gas, we have to expend
The energy is
generated as heat by the combustion of
some fuel. The thrust equation describes
how the acceleration of the gas produces a force.
of propulsion system used on an aircraft may vary from airplane to airplane and
each device produces thrust in a slightly different way. We will
discuss four principal propulsion systems at this web site; the
the turbine,or jet, engine,
You can view a short
of "Orville and Wilbur Wright" discussing the thrust force
and how it affected the flight of their aircraft. The movie file can
be saved to your computer and viewed as a Podcast on your podcast player.
Forces on an Airplane:
- Beginner's Guide Home Page