The Simple Science of Flight

The Simple Science of Flight

From Insects to Jumbo Jets

By Henk Tennekes





From the smallest gnat to the largest aircraft, all things that fly obey the same aerodynamic principles. The Simple Science of Flight offers a leisurely introduction to the mechanics of flight and, beyond that, to the scientific attitude that finds wonder in simple calculations, forging connections between, say, the energy efficiency of a peanut butter sandwich and that of the kerosene that fuels a jumbo jet. It is the product of a lifetime of watching and investigating the way flight happens.The hero of the book is the Boeing 747, which Tennekes sees as the current pinnacle of human ingenuity in mastering the science of flight. Also covered are paper airplanes, kites, gliders, and human-powered flying machines as well as birds and insects. Tennekes explains concepts like lift, drag, wing loading, and cruising speed through many fascinating comparisons, anecdotes, and examples.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262201056 152 pp. | 6.8 in x 9.7 in


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262700658 152 pp. | 6.8 in x 9.7 in

Not for sale on the Indian subcontinent.


  • The broad sweep from birds to 747s and kites in this book is certainly unique. One is impressed by the author's breadth of knowledge. The light touch, occasional asides, and clever remarks transform what is, for most of us, a formidable topic to a 'good read.'

    Raymond A. Paynter, Jr.

    Curator of Birds and Senior Lecturer on Biology, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

  • A very readable book, witha lot of interesting thoughts, for the non-science reader interested in flight. It stands alone in the choice of the material, and in the excellent way that the author explains important ideas to the non-science reader. In addition, every aeronautical engineer ought to have great fun in reading this book—I certainly did.

    John Anderson

    Professor of Aerospace Engineering, University of Maryland at College Park

  • Tennekes has succeeded in presenting a simple, but insightful analysis of flight, increasing our understanding of aircraft design by relating the world of animal flight to the world of manned flight. While the calculations of his analysis are simple, some of the insights drawn from his analysis of aircraft design and performance are profound. I wish I had the benefit of some of his insights twenty years ago when I was a young aeronautical engineer working on an aircraft design team.

    Steve B. Borah

    Visitng Professor, MIT