Thrust is the force which moves an
aircraft through the air. For the 1903 Wright Flyer, thrust is generated by the
of the airplane. What is thrust?
Thrust is a mechanical force. It is generated most often through
the application of Newton's third law of motion.
A mass of gas (air) is accelerated in one direction by the propulsion
system, and the re-action is an acceleration of the aircraft in the
opposite direction. On the Wright 1903 aircraft,
the propeller does work on the surrounding air and as the air is accelerated to
the rear, the propeller is pushed in the opposite direction. The
push on the propeller produces a force
on the aircraft. The aircraft response
depends on the balance of forces on the airplane.
The physics involved in the generation of thrust is introduced in
middle school and studied in some detail in high school and college.
To turn the propeller, the Wright brothers built a small, internal combustion,
The gas engine burned fuel and used the energy released by the fuel as heat
to turn a crankshaft. The crankshaft was connected to the propellers by
The modern propeller thrust equation describes
how the acceleration of the air produces a force.
The brothers developed their own propeller theory and used results from their
to design their propellers.
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.
- Re-Living the Wright Way
- Beginner's Guide to Aeronautics
- NASA Home Page