Why Don't Jumbo Jets Flap Their Wings? Flying Animals, Flying Machines, and How They Are Different

Why Don't Jumbo Jets Flap Their Wings? Flying Animals, Flying Machines, and How They Are Different

Why Don't Jumbo Jets Flap Their Wings? Flying Animals, Flying Machines, and How They Are Different

Why Don't Jumbo Jets Flap Their Wings? Flying Animals, Flying Machines, and How They Are Different

Synopsis

What do a bumble bee and a 747 jet have in common? It's not a trick question. The fact is they have quite a lot in common. They both have wings. They both fly. And they're both ideally suited to it. They just do it differently.

Why Don't Jumbo Jets Flap Their Wings? offers a fascinating explanation of how nature and human engineers each arrived at powered flight. What emerges is a highly readable account of two very different approaches to solving the same fundamental problems of moving through the air, including lift, thrust, turning, and landing. The book traces the slow and deliberate evolutionary process of animal flight--in birds, bats, and insects--over millions of years and compares it to the directed efforts of human beings to create the aircraft over the course of a single century.

Among the many questions the book answers:
  • Why are wings necessary for flight?
  • How do different wings fly differently?
  • When did flight evolve in animals?
  • What vision, knowledge, and technology was needed before humans could learn to fly?
  • Why are animals and aircrafts perfectly suited to the kind of flying they do?

David E. Alexander first describes the basic properties of wings before launching into the diverse challenges of flight and the concepts of flight aerodynamics and control to present an integrated view that shows both why birds have historically had little influence on aeronautical engineering and exciting new areas of technology where engineers are successfully borrowing ideas from animals.

Excerpt

Although flight symbolizes freedom to most people, I doubt if many dwell much on flight in the literal sense. Flight is going on all around us, however. It affects us in many ways, from the obvious, such as transportation, to the subtle, such as disease transmission and crop pollination. I suspect that most people, on seeing a jet airliner take off or a swan land, are casually, momentarily interested in flight. But once they learn a bit about flight, they may find that it is a naturally interesting subject.

I am one of those people who drops what he is doing and looks up when an airplane flies overhead, who nearly runs his car off the road while trying to drive and watch a large flock of migrating geese at the same time. I find the flight of airplanes and animals endlessly fascinating, and I am envious of both aerobatic aviators and the even more agile flyers of the animal kingdom. Can anyone watch the ponderous grace of a crane or a pelican and not be amazed at how easy they make their landings look? Can anyone watch a jumbo jet take off and not be amazed that thin air can hold up such an enormous contraption? I certainly can’t, and I hope this book transmits some of my enthusiasm to you.

I grew up surrounded by aviation. My family lived near Dayton, Ohio (home of the Wright brothers), and my father worked at WrightPatterson Air Force Base. My father and I both built display models of airplanes, and he, my brother, and I taught ourselves to fly gaspowered control-line airplane models. I learned photographic processing so I could print my own enlargements of photos of historic airplanes that I took at the U.S. Air Force Museum.

Later, as a professional biologist, I discovered that animal flight is just as fascinating as aviation and that the two share similarities and . . .

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