Flying (locomotion)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Flying Japanese gull , example of aerodynamic flying
Driving ( technical language of balloonists ) hot air balloon , example of aerostatic flying
Antares flying missile , example of recoil-propelled flight
The ISS in orbit , example of passive flight

The flying or flight means the movement of a body through the air , by another gas or a vacuum , without touching a solid surface.


The verb "to fly", like mhd. Viegen from ahd. Fliogan , goes like lit. plaũkti “swim” to an idg. root pleuk- back, which is expanded from pleu- rinnen , flow, swim, fly ”and originally meant“ to move [fast] ”in general.

Different types of flight

Different types of flight are distinguished according to the various forms of movement and underlying physical principles.

Active flight in the surrounding air

Aerodynamic flying

The movement of a body heavier than air with dynamic lift , which is created by bodies in a flow, is called aerodynamic flying. Aerodynamic flying is described in physics with the laws of aerodynamics , e.g. B. Flies with wings , flapping wings , fixed wings , rotary wings .

Aerostatic flying

The movement of a body in the air that is filled with a gas with a lower density than the surrounding air and that experiences static buoyancy is called aerostatic flying. Aerostatic flying is described using the Archimedean principle , e.g. B. Flying a free balloon .

Active flight independent of the surrounding air

Recoil drive

The flight of a body through space with recoil propulsion is realized with rocket propulsion . The recoil drive is the practical application of Newton's 3rd axiom , e.g. B. in space flight of a rocket .

Passive flying

Passive flying includes jumping, a form of locomotion that is widespread in the animal kingdom. The body snaps off the ground, flies passively through the air and lands again after a short time due to the effect of gravity. If one neglects the influence of air resistance and other aerodynamic effects, the body describes the trajectory of a trajectory parabola . Depending on the aerodynamic properties of the body, the trajectory parabola can be shortened, lengthened or changed asymmetrically.

The passive flight of any object as a projectile after initial acceleration by mechanical energy (e.g. the flight of a spear or arrow ) or by a propellant describes such a ballistic trajectory.

Devices that are capable of flying not only in the air but also in space are called missiles . Rockets, artificial satellites , space probes and other spacecraft are always on ballistic trajectories when no engines are used. These trajectories can optionally be periodic orbits around a celestial body or around the Lagrange point of a three-body system.

The seeds of the " dandelion " are paragliders

Flight in nature

Buoyancy of plant seeds and spiders

The plant seeds of the so-called wind fliers are equipped with devices for passive flying.

Certain species of spider emit bundles of threads, which are then caught by the wind with them. You can cover several 100 kilometers in this way.

Wings for active flight have developed convergently in three groups of vertebrates :
1 pterosaur
2 bats
3 birds .
Their front extremities are homologous structures and at the same time an analogy in their function as wings. In pterosaurs, the wings are carried by the 4th finger, in bats from the 2nd to 5th and in birds essentially by the 2nd finger.

Animal groups

Some aquatic creatures such as fish, penguins and marine mammals are capable of jumping in the air , while flying fish ( family Exocoetidae) can glide at distances of up to 400 m in the air .

Most land animals that climb and run can jump in the air. A part of the species on land is winged , so that they can fly even greater distances: Insects ( class Insecta) make up the majority of land animals and most adult insects have two pairs of wings .

Among the terrestrial vertebrates ( tribe Vertebrata) multiple convergent forms capable of flight emerged in the course of evolution .

Among the reptiles (Reptilia class) which were extinct Flugsaurier ( Pterosauria ) capable of flight, under the recent only are kites ( genus Draco ) capable of gliding. Ornate tree snakes master the gliding flight.

Most birds (class Aves) and among the mammals (class Mammalia) the gliders (family Petauridae, limited to gliding), gliding squirrels ( tribe Pteromyini, limited to gliding) and bats ( order Chiroptera) are capable of flight.

Flight executions

In the embodiment of flying can be made between gliding, gliding , Gaukelflug , Rüttelflug , Schwirrflug , flapping flight or flight rudder and other flight forms. There are also special flight designs such as courtship flight z. B. with snipe , which are not primarily carried out as locomotion. In the case of some insects, the flight in swarms is used for mating , e.g. B. the wedding flight of some hymenoptera or the swarm dance ( English nuptial flight ) of some mayflies . The compensation flight serves to maintain the distribution in a habitat .

Insect flight

Insects use different techniques to fly. Depending on the size of the insect and the speed of movement of the wings, the air for the insect is differently "tough". Particularly small insects therefore “swim” in the air, which, due to their size, flight and wing speed, appears as tough to them as water. Their wings are therefore not aerodynamically shaped, but rather resemble a rapidly rotating “ paddle ”.

Bird flight

Drawing by Lilienthal in his book Der Vogelflug as the basis of the art of flying

The flight of a bird is subject to the same basic aerodynamic laws as a hydrofoil aircraft. However, the principle of action is completely different. Moving the wings upwards creates less drag than moving the wings downwards. Thus, the wings push the bird more up (wing flap down) than down (when the wing flaps up). This is mainly achieved by a downward curvature of the wing tips when the wing flaps upwards. The forward movement is caused by a more or less strong curvature of the wings (think of the wings of a ship's propeller), depending on the bird's intention. In other words, the so-called hand areas at the wingtips are turned with the front edge facing downwards on the downstroke, on the upstroke the front edge of the hand area points upwards. This not only pushes the air down, but also backwards. Performing the up and down movement in an inclined and less vertical path can also be used to push the air not only downwards, but also backwards and thus generate a forward movement (see flapping flight ). The forward movement can also be brought about without flapping its wings by the fact that the bird converts the potential energy it has gained with its flight altitude into propulsion while gliding . One attempt to determine the performance of different bird species based on the ratio of the length of the hand wings to the total wing length is the hand wing index .

It is interesting that the frequency of the wing flapping of migratory birds during long-distance bird migration , e.g. B. over the Sahara , is not the same as with short-haul flights in their respective target region. In "everyday flying" their wing flapping frequency is higher because they want to move as quickly as possible. During the bird migration they divide their forces better, since a lower wing beat frequency means less energy expenditure. This has led to confusion among ornithologists for some time as they tried to use radar devices to identify birds in flight on bird migration based on the frequency of their flapping.

Big birds

Brown pelicans glide close to the sea surface in order to save energy through the buoyancy of the ground effect

The energy- and energy-saving gliding and gliding can be observed especially in large birds. Their flight has long been considered a great (undiscovered) secret. There are a number of natural causes that make the drive unnecessary in gliding: updrafts on mountain slopes, heated and therefore rising air masses ( thermals ) or the gusty winds ( dynamic gliding ). Birds of prey can cover large distances on their prey flights within their extensive hunting ground, sometimes more than a hundred kilometers per day. The albatross with wingspan of up to 3.5 meters is able to stay almost motionless in the air for hours in the sea breeze. Some birds also master the shaking flight , in which they fly in place.

Small birds

Small birds can usually move about in both gliding and rowing flight . The very small hummingbird is one of the few birds that also masters the hovering flight , and it flies with a very high frequency of up to 80 wing beats per second. This technique makes it possible to fly backwards or sideways or to stand still in the air, similar to insects.

Swarm behavior

Through the formation of swarms and V-formation in flight, birds reduce the energy expenditure by - diagonally behind - birds following behind use the buoyancy zone of the tip vortex of the one flying ahead. In the case of large birds, synchronization of the flapping of the wings in a V-formation could also be advantageous.

Technical replica

The automation manufacturer Festo presented a robotic seagull for the first time at the Hanover Fair in 2011, which uses an active articulated torsion drive to fully reproduce the flight of birds and thus differs from simple flapping wing devices . Festos SmartBird can take off and land itself and generates its lift and thrust only with the wings (see below ornithopter).

Technical missiles

Lighter than air

During the balloon flight , the aerostatic lift is generated by the lifting gas in gas cells or by hot air . In the technical jargon, the word “flying” is not applied to the ride in a balloon or an airship ; instead, the term “driving” is used. This could have historical origins, as the first balloonists adopted the vocabulary of seafaring.

Hybrid shapes use aerostatic lift plus aerodynamic forces. Airships generate a small part (about five percent) of the required lift aerodynamically by rotating propellers. Hybrid airships make greater use of aerodynamics and combine the properties of airships and aircraft.

A Kytoon - a hybrid of a kite and a balloon - uses the wind passively in addition to its buoyancy. Bionic flying objects use movement elements that are based on the flight of birds or the diving swimming of marine animals. The indoor flying object Air Jelly from Festo uses the recoil of eight paddles on tentacles similar to an octopus or a jellyfish . AirRay and AirPenguin , both also from Festo, are similar to rays and penguins .

Heavier than air


Designs by Leonardo da Vinci for a flying machine, Codex on Bird Flight , 1505
Otto Lilienthal during a glide flight
Orville Wright flies the "Kitty Hawk" motor plane

Being able to fly “like birds ” has always been a dream of mankind. The legend of Daedalus and Icarus is passed down from ancient Greek mythology , who moved through the air like birds using self-made wings. Even in this ancient legend, technical ignorance and high-spirited neglect of safety precautions are discussed as a human risk when flying (Icarus disregards the fact that the wings made by his father Daedalus with wax and bird feathers melt when approaching the sun and has a fatal accident).

In reality, people without knowledge of the physical fundamentals of aerodynamic flight were initially only able to move in the air with manned kites or, with mostly imaginative devices, at best by chance to get into a short-term lift phase without using it for a long time in flight can (see Albrecht Ludwig Berblinger ). The pre-Christian artefact of the dove of Saqqara may be a model of a glider. According to an Islamic chronicle, the scholar Abbas Ibn Firnas was the first person to develop a hang-glider (with vulture feathers) and attempted a flight in 875. However, he is said to have broken both legs during the rapid landing.

Despite the role models in nature, it took man a long time to understand the functional principle of the wing and to imitate it technically. The application of empirical and scientific methods ( Leonardo da Vinci , George Cayley ) brought the first usable insights and suggestions for empirical flight research, which, however, did not lead to an understanding of the operation of the wing and successful flight tests until the end of the 19th century. The first successful flights with apparatuses that were suitable for carrying the weight of a person were initially made in gliding flight (e.g. Otto Lilienthal , Octave Chanute , Wright brothers ).

It was only possible to cover longer distances with a controllable aircraft with the use of motorized fixed-wing aircraft at the beginning of the 20th century. With their successful powered flights, the Wright brothers laid the technical foundation for a rapid development in the history of aviation that continues to this day. It was only the knowledge gained during the development of modern motorized aircraft that made it possible to build functional, muscle-powered aircraft . The helicopter is subject to the same aerodynamic principles as the aircraft flight, although the vertical movement by rotating surfaces ( rotors is effected).

Physical basics

The generation of dynamic lift with wings or wings uses properties of the air ( mass , viscosity ). Due to these properties, incoming air is diverted by suitable profiling and adjustment of the wing; an impulse is transmitted to them perpendicular to the direction of flow. According to Newton's first law , this change in direction of the flow requires a continuously acting force. According to Newton's third law ( actio and reactio ), an equal and opposite force, the lift, acts on the wing.

The size of the lift force depends on speed, angle of attack and wing geometry. While the speed changes with the drive power and by changing the flight altitude , the angle of attack can be changed with the elevator . Even the wing geometry can be changed during flight, e.g. B. with the help of the landing flaps . Since the generation of lift as an induced drag counteracts the flight movement, forward movement (with the exception of gliders and gliders ) is maintained with aviation engines . This is partly done with the help of aircraft engines that drive one or more propellers , partly with jet engines , sometimes in combination ( turboprop drive ).

Flight maneuvers are actions on the flight by the pilot. These include climbing and descending flight , in contrast to travel or level flight.


It was only recently that the biological models, birds , bats and insects , which have been moving with flapping wings for millions of years ( flapping flight ), have been able to function. A spectacular success was presented in 2011 with an artificial herring gull, the SmartBird . A very small ornithopter simulates the swimming of the jellyfish with 3 paddles that fold together (wings). It was developed by Leif Ristroph and Stephen Childress at New York University.

See also


  • David E. Alexander: Nature's flyers - birds, insects, and the biomechanics of flight. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 2002, ISBN 0-8018-6756-8 .
  • Peter Almond: Flying - History of Aviation in Pictures. Translated from English by Manfred Allié . DuMont Monte, Cologne 2003, ISBN 3-8320-8806-7 .
  • David Anderson, Scott Eberhardt: Understanding Flight . 2nd Edition. McGraw-Hill, New York et al. 2009, ISBN 978-0-07-162696-5 ( A Physical Description of Flight book excerpt as PDF file).
  • Naomi Kato, Shinji Kamimura: Bio-mechanisms of swimming and flying. Springer, Tokyo 2008, ISBN 978-4-431-73379-9 .
  • Konrad Lorenz: The flight of birds. Neske, Pfullingen 1965.
  • Henk Tennekes: The simple science of flight - From insects to jumbo jets . Rev. and expanded ed. The MIT Press, Cambridge (Massachusetts), London 2009, ISBN 978-0-262-51313-5 .

Web links

Wikiquote: Flies  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The dictionary of origin (=  Der Duden in twelve volumes . Volume 7 ). Reprint of the 2nd edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim 1997 ( p. 194 ). See also DWDS ( “to fly” ) and Friedrich Kluge : Etymological dictionary of the German language . 7th edition. Trübner, Strasbourg 1910 ( p. 141 ).
  3. ^ Ulrich Lehmann: Paleontological Dictionary , 4th edition. Enke, Stuttgart, 1996
  4. ^ Benjamin E. Dial, Lloyd C. Fitzpatrick: Predator escape success in tailed versus tailless Scinella lateralis (Sauria: Scincidae). In: Animal Behavior 32, No. 1, 1984, pp. 301-302.
  5. Masanao Honda, Hidetoshi Ota, Mari Kobayashi, Jarujin Nabhitabhata, Hoi-Sen Yong, Tsutomu Hikida: Phylogenetic relationships of the flying lizards, genus Draco (Reptilia, Agamidae). In: Zoological Science 16, No. 3, 1999, pp. 535-549, doi: 10.2108 / zsj.16.535 .
  6. Wunderwerk Vogelflug , Wildvogelhilfe, accessed July 21, 2014.
  7. Janet E. Harker: Swarm behavior and mate competition in mayflies (Ephemeroptera). In: Journal of Zoology 228, No. 4, 1992, pp. 571-587, doi: 10.1111 / j.1469-7998.1992.tb04456.x .
  8. KG Sivaramakrishnan, К. Venkataraman: Behavioral strategies of emergence, swarming, mating and imposition in mayflies. (PDF) In: Proc. Indian Acad. Sci. Volume 94. No. 3, June 1985, 351-357.
  9. Festo develops robots based on the model of a seagull on
  10. Festo AirJelly, youtube video, Airshipworld April 22, 2008, accessed November 19, 2014
  11. ^ A Physical Description of Flight
  12. Invention: A jellyfish learns to fly,, January 15, 2014.