Some Grumps On The Internet Might Think This Is A Silly Question, But The Learning That Can Be Derived From It Is phenomenal.

The simple answer would be to tell you that the LEGO® airplane is too heavy and not moving fast enough. But there is a lot of physics to break down in there. Physics is the study of how matter and energy respond, change, and interact with time and space.

LEGO® is made up of ABS molecules, which are made up of atoms, which are matter. And, if you don’t know now, now you will know that matter is energy! That, my friends, is the genius of Einstein’s E=mc^2.

But now that we know this, let’s break this article into three parts:

  • How the physics of flying works
  • Why LEGO® airplanes can’t fly
  • What LEGO® airplanes would need to fly
AI Generated Image Of A Commercial Flying Airliner In White And Blue

How The Physics Of Flying Works

Sir Isaac Newton, the father of calculus and physics, made the defining three laws of physics. His third law states: For every force acting on an object, the object exerts an equal force in the opposite direction on the first object. For an aircraft to fly, it must be in equilibrium with the third law, or a better way of putting it, the plane’s matter and energy must be in balance with the forces around it in order to operate. The four forces that act on an airplane, or a LEGO® airplane are as follows: lift, gravity, thrust, and drag.

  • Lift is the upward force of motion that is generated from the wings of a plane cutting through the air, sending powerful airflow underneath the wings, pushing the plane upwards.
  • Gravity is the downward force that pulls the aircraft down towards the center of the Earth. The Earth is a massive body of matter that generates this force on all objects that are close to it from the moon, to a bird, to a human, and a plane as well!
  • Thrust is the forward force generated by an aircraft that propels it forward. Think of a rocket’s engines, or the powerful jet streams propelled out of the back of a commercial airliner.
  • Drag is the backward force applied to an object as it moves through a fluid. Aerodynamics treats air like a fluid, so this force is generated by the movement of the plane through the air. In this specific case, air resistance is the force of drag on the aircraft.

Now, if you were to draw an upwards arrow (lift), a downwards arrow (gravity), a forward arrow (thrust), and a backward arrow (drag) all originating from the same point, you would get four, equal-sized arrows operating in perfect balance.

Why LEGO® Airplanes Can’t Fly In Terms Of Physics

Due to the weight of the LEGO® airplane, the amount of thrust needed to propel the LEGO® aircraft into equilibrium (balance) would be too much for the little LEGO® aircraft to handle. The LEGO® would fall apart and shatter, or simply not have enough thrust and lift to be in equilibrium with gravity and drag.

But Would Would A LEGO® Aircraft Need To Fly?

Let’s say you were able to build an aerodynamic LEGO® set that could fly. Let’s say that LEGO® weighs 1 pound. This means the little LEGO® aircraft needs a certain amount of push (we call this ‘thrust’) to lift off the ground and fly. To make it simple, the push needs to be a bit more than the weight of the LEGO®, so more than 1 pound of push. This is because the push has to be strong enough to beat gravity pulling it down and to move it forward through the air.

For example, think of a small drone’s motor. If we use it on our LEGO® set, it can create enough push to lift the LEGO® off the ground and make it fly because a drone’s motor is designed to produce a strong enough thrust to lift the drone, which can be similar to the weight of our LEGO® airplane.

It is possible – but it would take a feat of mechanical and LEGO® engineering!

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