February 23rd, 2003

airplane

applied physics

In pilot school, we learned that airplanes are designed to be inherently stable, that is, they want to fly straight and level. You pull back on the control wheel really fast and let it go, you'll point up. Then you'll lose speed and point back down. Then you'll gain speed and point back up. You'll continue flying in these little waves that get smaller and smaller, until finally you'll be straight and level again. Some thing occurs if you hit a funny air pocket that bumps you up or down.

You can load a plane with a bunch of stuff, but if you load it too far forward or backward, you'll lose that stability. Too much stuff in front, and the nose will never point up and you won't get off the ground. Too much stuff in back, and the plane will just keep pointing further and further up until you stall out, can't recover, and crash to the ground tail first.

What I'd like to decide is if people are inherently stable, and just loaded wrong, or inherently unstable. Because sometimes I feel like I just can't straighten out for any period of time. Turbulence, maybe?

The wright brothers airplane was completely unstable, but somehow accomplished something. Almost none of today's pilots would be able to fly it. Funny thought.