April 2011 Issue

Using Ground Effect

Ever watch an airplane float down the runway before the wheels touch? Mooneys and other clean, long-winged planes are prone to this, especially when their pilots carry a little too much airspeed down the final. How about someone doing a soft-field takeoff, who staggers into the air, nose-high, while bystanders start taking bets on whether the plane will end up in the trees? Both are encountering ground effect, which is basically some free lifting energy produced when an airfoil—whether fixed, as with an airplane or glider, or rotating, as with a rotorcraft—is within a certain distance from a surface, but both also are mishandling it.

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