Interesting! Independent of the density of the fluid through which the plane flies, the required thrust (for a plane travelling at the optimal speed) is just a dimensionless constant (CdfA )1/2 times the weight of the plane. This constant, by the way, is known as the drag-to-lift ratio of the plane. (The lift-to-drag ratio has a few other names: the glide number, glide ratio, aerodynamic efficiency, or finesse; typical values are shown in table C.8.)
Taking the jumbo jet's figures, cd — 0.03 and fA — 0.04, we find the required thrust is
How does this agree with the 747's spec sheets? In fact each of the 4 engines has a maximum thrust of about 250 kN, but this maximum thrust is used only during take-off. During cruise, the thrust is much smaller:
Airbus A320 17
Boeing 767-200 19
Boeing 747-100 18
Common Tern 12
the thrust of a cruising 747 is 200 kN, just 50% more than our cartoon suggested. Our cartoon is a little bit off because our estimate of the drag-to-lift ratio was a little bit low.
This thrust can be used directly to deduce the transport efficiency achieved by any plane. We can work out two sorts of transport efficiency: the energy cost of moving weight around, measured in kWh per ton-kilometre; and the energy cost of moving people, measured in kWh per 100 passenger-kilometres.
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Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.