How Does Gravity Affect Flight?

Gravity pulls objects downward, toward the Earth’s center, so anything that flies must counteract gravity’s pull. Using forward thrust and the lift provided by wings, an airplane overcomes the effects of gravity and flies. Gravity also affects the stability of a plane in flight, which makes distributing weight and maintaining balance essential.

All forms of flight overcome gravity using a combination of forces to provide lift. For terrestrial flight, forward thrust through the air provides the speed to move forward, and this thrust allows air to move underneath the wings to provide lift. Both aerodynamic forces counteract the weight of an object, allowing it to lift into the air. Rockets use vertical thrust for lift instead of wings and overcome gravity by rapidly applying an upward force until the effect of gravity weakens.

A flying object can overcome gravity with lift, but stabilizing the object in flight requires balancing weight evenly because gravity still pulls on the object. The center of gravity determines how well an object behaves in flight. With proper weight distribution, a flying object moves through the air evenly, with minimal need for additional controls. If weight shifts too far forward or backward, the object can lose its aerodynamic balance, reducing lift and causing a crash.