Explaining lift with AI

Q: AIAA Fellow Paul Bevilaqua asked ChatGPT, “How does an airplane wing generate lift?” Ahead are highlights of the chatbot’s response. Did it nail lift? Why or why not? The bot noted that a wing creates “a smooth flow of air over the top of the wing and a turbulent flow of air under the wing,” and because the wing is “curved on the top and flat on the bottom,” the air “moving over the top of the wing must travel a longer distance than air moving under the wing. As a result, the air above the wing is moving faster than the air below the wing, which creates a decrease in air pressure on the top of the wing. This decrease in pressure on the top of the wing creates an upward force, known as lift.”

Send a response of up to 250 words that someone in any field could understand to aeropuzzler@aerospaceamerica.org by noon Eastern April 17 for a chance to have it published in the next issue.


We asked you to explain a tourist’s incorrect assumptions about reaching orbit.

WINNER: There are two things wrong with the tourist’s statement. The first one is the claim about zero gravity in space so you won’t fall back to Earth. This is incorrect, as the force of gravity is solely dependent upon the masses of the objects and the distance between the center of mass of these objects. So the objects are technically always “falling.” Therefore, there is still gravity acting on the single-stage-to-orbit. This is seen in Newton’s law of gravitation, F = G(m1m2/r2). The tourist’s claim about going west has some truth to it. It is possible that the spacecraft might not have made it to orbit because launching east gives a speed boost from the Earth’s rotation. The ability to stay in orbit while constantly “falling” can be shown by solving for tangential velocity in m1v2/r = G(m1m2/r2) so v = v= sq(Gm2/r). Therefore, a higher starting velocity means the rocket has to do less work to get into orbit.

Frank Lucci

San Antonio, Texas

AIAA high school member at the Basis San Antonio Shavano charter school.

Explaining lift with AI