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This interactive tutorial for Grades 6-12 examines the aerodynamic forces of lift and drag. Students explore the two principles that combine to produce lift: the Bernoulli Effect and Newton's Third Law. The tutorial discusses why wing shape alone cannot create lift.  Airplanes stay aloft because the wing pushes air down; the corresponding reaction occurs as air pushes the wing up. This paired action/reaction, along with wing shape and airspeed, interact to produce flight.

This resource is part of the NOVA digital collection on space and flight.

Please note that this resource requires Flash.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Applications of Newton's Laws
= Pressure
- Motion in Two Dimensions
= 2D Acceleration
- Newton's Second Law
= Force, Acceleration
- Newton's Third Law
= Action/Reaction
Fluid Mechanics
- Dynamics of Fluids
= Bernoulli Force
- High School
- Middle School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Interactive Simulation
= Tutorial
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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Free access
© 2008 WGBH Educational Foundation
Bernoulli, aerodynamics, airfoil, drag force, flight, force pairs, lift force, thrust
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created October 3, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
December 22, 2011 by Ed Lee
Last Update
when Cataloged:
January 15, 2011

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 9-12: 4F/H4. Whenever one thing exerts a force on another, an equal amount of force is exerted back on it.

10. Historical Perspectives

10B. Uniting the Heavens and Earth
  • 9-12: 10B/H1. Isaac Newton, building on earlier descriptions of motion by Galileo, Kepler, and others, created a unified view of force and motion in which motion everywhere in the universe can be explained by the same few rules. Newton's system was based on the concepts of mass, force, and acceleration; his three laws of motion relating them; and a physical law stating that the force of gravity between any two objects in the universe depends only upon their masses and the distance between them.
  • 9-12: 10B/H5. Although overtaken in the 1900s by Einstein's relativity theory, Newton's ideas persist and are widely used. Moreover, his influence has extended far beyond physics and astronomy, serving as a model for other sciences and even raising philosophical questions about free will and the organization of social systems.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.
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Record Link
AIP Format
(Public Broadcasting Service, Alexandria, 2008), WWW Document, (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/lift-drag.html).
NOVA: Lift and Drag, (Public Broadcasting Service, Alexandria, 2008), <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/lift-drag.html>.
APA Format
NOVA: Lift and Drag. (2011, January 15). Retrieved November 28, 2014, from Public Broadcasting Service: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/lift-drag.html
Chicago Format
Public Broadcasting Service. NOVA: Lift and Drag. Alexandria: Public Broadcasting Service, January 15, 2011. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/lift-drag.html (accessed 28 November 2014).
MLA Format
NOVA: Lift and Drag. Alexandria: Public Broadcasting Service, 2008. 15 Jan. 2011. 28 Nov. 2014 <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/lift-drag.html>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {NOVA: Lift and Drag}, Publisher = {Public Broadcasting Service}, Volume = {2014}, Number = {28 November 2014}, Month = {January 15, 2011}, Year = {2008} }
Refer Export Format

%T NOVA: Lift and Drag
%D January 15, 2011
%I Public Broadcasting Service
%C Alexandria
%U http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/lift-drag.html
%O application/flash

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D January 15, 2011
%T NOVA: Lift and Drag
%I Public Broadcasting Service
%V 2014
%N 28 November 2014
%8 January 15, 2011
%9 application/flash
%U http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/lift-drag.html

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NOVA: Lift and Drag:

Covers the Same Topic As Teach Engineering: May the Force Be With You - Lift

A 50-minute lesson for Grades 5-7 on how airplane wings are designed using Bernoulli's Principle to create lift.

relation by Caroline Hall

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