With aeroplane flight, the wings are shaped so that the air that goes over the top of the wing has to travel faster than the air that goes below the wing. This means that the air below the wing has higher pressure than the air above it (as the air above is moving much faster), keeping it in the air.

Why is it that lower pressure above the wing and higher pressure below stops the plane from falling?

  • $\begingroup$ Related: physics.stackexchange.com/q/290/2451 and physics.stackexchange.com/q/13030/2451 $\endgroup$
    – Qmechanic
    Apr 22, 2012 at 16:46
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Because it pushes it up. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Maimon
    Apr 22, 2012 at 21:10
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, that's obvious, I was asking why it pushes it up. $\endgroup$
    – ODP
    Apr 22, 2012 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ Have you ever put your hand out of the window of a moving automobile, and angled it upward? The air pushes it up, by making more pressure underneath and more on top. Also because you are deflecting the air downward with your hand. A wing works the same way. $\endgroup$ Apr 22, 2012 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ Check out Stick and Rudder, by Langewiesche. It's a delightful book about aviation, and has been recommended for generations. $\endgroup$ Apr 23, 2012 at 17:35

2 Answers 2


First thing, that's a common misconception that the plane flies due to the Bernoulli effect.

See the these questions: What really allows airplanes to fly? Why does the air flow faster over the top of an airfoil? for the correct explanation.

Assuming that the bernoulli effect does explain flight, the answer to your question is:

Pressure of a fluid is force exerted by a fluid on a unit area of a neighboring body (the force exists inside the fluid as well, but it is balanced). So, if there is more pressure underneath, the upward force is greater (area if top and bottom of wings are approximately the same)

If the upward force is greater, the net force due to pressure is upwards. This force is called 'lift', and it balances gravity, helping the plane fly.

Read http://enwp.org/Pressure for more info.


Answer in first bullet point (see upward lift force) at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernoulli's_principle#Real-world_application

  • $\begingroup$ Link-only answers are frowned upon here, please provide at least an overview of what is said there. In this case, the question is pretty simple, so a full answer wouldn't hurt. $\endgroup$ Apr 22, 2012 at 17:22

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