Many of the things humans invented mimicked living things. From computers performing certain lower functions of the brain, robotic arms devised by studying the elephant’s trunks to the bullet trains adopting the beak of the kingfisher’s beak for speed and efficiency, we have used animals as inspiration to create solutions to many problems of humankind.
One of the most amazing marvels of the animal kingdom that heralded the also one the greatest human invention is the bird. For many centuries, humans yearned to fly like these majestic creatures. The fascination proved to be fruitful in 1903 when the first successful airplane finally took humans to the skies.
Though the airplane didn’t have the movable wings, birds have. Still, we eventually managed to bring some of bird flight’s wonders and make our own aircraft fly. In this article, let’s delve deeper into that and discover the resemblance between birds and airplanes’ aerodynamics.
Birds start to take to the air by taking off, which they do in a variety of ways. Some birds jump off from a high perch and glode, others run first and flap their wings to propel themselves through the air. The wing flaps make the pressure on the top of the bird’s wings to be relatively lower above while increasing the pressure below. Thus, allowing the bird to get the required lift or upward force to push the bird up in the wind.
It’s the same principle that applies to airplanes. You see planes speedily run on the runway first because they must gain enough speed and achieve the needed pressure difference for them to produce the required lift needed to fly. This can also be seen on other aircraft, such as in helicopters using its rotating and rockets using fuel to propel them into the air.
Taking off is one thing but moving forward in the air is another story. To achieve that, birds need to keep their wings flapping to create the thrust or the force that moves them or aircraft in the direction of the motion. Birds are blessed with strong musculature and circulatory and respiratory systems capable of keeping high oxygen supply and metabolic rates, enabling birds to fly. On the other hand, airplanes also need thrust but rather use jet or propeller engines to create constant thrust to sustain their passage through the air.
It’s quickly noticeable how birds and airplanes appear to be similar in structure. That isn’t only because of aesthetics or merely following birds, though, as having a streamlined form is another necessity in flight. You can see that both the birds and planes have wings and a pointed front (beak for birds). Birds have hollow bones and feathers, while airplanes use light materials. All these work together to minimize the effects of gravity, create more aerodynamics, and allow them to sweep seamlessly through the air in a forward movement.
Movements During Flight
Birds use their body parts (wings and tail) to maneuver in the air. They adjust their wingtips to create more lift on one wing side than the other and turn while in flight. Meanwhile, birds utilize their tails to change altitude and lurch their bodies in upward or downward motion.
Airplanes also rely on movable parts to make movement while airborne. Ailerons, small hinged sections located on the outer rear edge of the wings), plus the rudder and elevator, flight control surfaces located in the plane’s tail, are used for the aircraft’s titling, and vertical and horizontal movements.
As both birds and planes needed the lift to fly, they also needed to cancel it and stop the movement for landing. Birds normally tilt backward and spread their wings and tail to create resistance and slow them down. Once they slow down, airflow and pressure are disrupted, canceling the lift and allowing them to land. The same goes for airplanes that use their motion controllers or flight control surfaces, ailerons, elevators plus their speed brakes and landing gear to reduce thrust and cancel the lift for a successful landing on the runway.
It’s remarkable how animals have helped humans discover more about various concepts around us, leading to many inventions beneficial to us today. Yet, airplanes have also evolved much more than how humans started, though these machines are bird-inspired, the ceaseless advancement of technology certainly will catapult us to more innovations about flight.