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Homework Help: Tailwind vs plane size

  1. Mar 2, 2013 #1
    Tailwind vs airplane size

    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    In fact this isn't my hw but could you please confirm this. The same tailwind
    increases the speed of a bigger airplane less compared to smaller plane. (more mass) On the other hand the bigger plane has larger surface area. NII:a=F/m
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 2, 2013 #2


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    Airplanes always fly relative to the air. The ground speed depends on the airplane speed, wind speed and the angle between those two, but it has nothing to do with the mass or size of the airplane.
  4. Mar 2, 2013 #3
    But does the ground speed of the smaller plane increase more?
  5. Mar 2, 2013 #4


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    Go back and read mgb again- "The ground speed ... has nothing to do with the mass or size of the airplane".

    You may be thinking that the air is "pushing" against the airplane with some fixed force and so would "push" a lighter airplane faster. That is not what happens. It is the air that supports the airplane. Imagine a toy airplane rolling across a table. Its speed across the table is its "airspeed". Now, several people pick the table up and walk across the room at a fixed speed. The (vector) sum of the speed of the airplane across the table and the speed of the table is the airplane's "ground speed". That depends only on the airplane's "airspeed" and the speed of the table (the "wind speed") and has nothing to do with the size or mass of the airplane.
  6. Mar 2, 2013 #5
    Well...I obviously still have something to learn...thank you!
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