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Planes falling out of the sky?!


aweld98

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For winter break, I traveled with my friend to southern Florida in order to escape the chilling winds and snow.  Yesterday, as we returned from our sunny break and descended into our final destination, I applied physics in a kind of unique way.  As the plane got closer and closer to the ground, the turbulence became increasingly worse (the pilot had warned us that this was expected due to strong winds).  As the descend continued and the bumpiness of the ride worsened, I heard a little boy in front of me grow more and more uneasy and scared.  At one point, he asked his dad "What if we just drop out of the sky?".  I thought about it, and I realized that the boy had no need to worry of the plane simply falling out of the sky.  Why?  Well, if you simplify it, a plane descending is simply an application of kinematics and projectile motion.  Even if the pilot were to completely cut the engines, the plane would still continue to go at the same horizontal speed because there is no acceleration in that plane (granted, as I did mention, there was some wind, which could cause a resisting drag force, but the wind did not have nearly enough force to decelerate the plane's velocity to a magnitude of zero instantaneously).  Even if the plane were to go into freefall, it would continue to travel in the forward motion, but the acceleration due to gravity would increase, hence the planes downward displacement would be increasing faster in comparison to its displacement in the y direction.  Even so, given the conditions, the little passenger in front of me had no need to worry; we were not going to simply fall out of the sky, and we safely landed on the runaway.

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