28 February, 2019

Doc Diaries: Tunnel Vision (part 3)


The miracle of flight is, in many ways, actually a miracle of fluid dynamics. And even though you can't see the wind through an airplane window, I feel like clouds can give you a little bit of a glimpse into that world. They help to expose the otherwise-invisible workings of the world around us.

So, for instance, a running turbofan creates a region of low-pressure air ahead of it, which can cause interesting flow phenomena when interacting with nearby surfaces. Those streamlines are usually invisible, but in the right conditions on a damp taxiway, a vortex appears (as in the bottom-right of the picture). That vortex is always there, of course. But it's the cloud of condensation that makes it visible, and that reinforces the wonder of modern aircraft.