The Upside Down Airplane Flight


As with most nerds that are connected to the internet, I read xkcd regularly. Ever since this comic posted, I’ve had a nagging sense to figure out the answer.

After reading Stick and Rudder, I figured it out.  Basically, once you turn the plane upside down you need to hold the yoke forward (like a dive*) to overcome both the weight of the plane as well as the (negative) lift of the wing.

*Actually, to dive in a plane you need throttle back.  Holding the yoke down will actually make you temporarily dive then you will speed up and come to a level flight, if you hold the yoke constantly forward.

I’ve always had a natural interest in flight.  If you have too and you like theoretical mechanics, I recommend reading the book.  There are a lot of things that go against common sense in flight.

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    J-Willinger said,

    Nice! So you keep aiming the nose towards the sky and increase the plane’s thrust, overcoming gravity and negative lift? Sounds like you’d burn alot more fuel. I think the easiest thing would be to let the nose fall towards the ground then keep pulling the stick back until you’ve back-flipped yourself upright.

  2. 2

    Pete said,

    I don’t think you do this maneuver for the fuel economy.

    I would rather go into this turn with the ailerons than with the elevator. You need to be a lot more careful about both stalls and aircraft deformation when you turn in the same direction as gravity.

    I don’t have any practical experience nor years of thought experience on it, though.


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