Things that fly need air. Even though we walk through it, breathe it, and sneeze it, air seems to be a whole bunch of nothing. But air is there, and it's powerful. Balloons inflate because air presses on the insides and outsides of the balloon. Air pressure in tires supports the weight of bikes, buses, trucks, cars, and planes. But air doesn't need to be inside something to exert pressure. Air that moves around pushes, too.
What do birds, planes, kites, Frisbees, and helicopters have in common? They fly because moving air creates lift, or a push up. Airplane wings are shaped to push air down. The momentum of the air going down pushes wings up. Air above the wing gets going faster than the air underneath. Fast-moving air zips along, without pushing as hard side to side or up and down. The slow air pushes up from below harder than the fast air pushes down from above ... and you're airborne!
Every flying thing, from the tiniest flying insect to the biggest airplane, uses momentum and these differences in air pressure to fly. The pressure force is called the Bernoulli Effect, named after the scientist who discovered it. Without it, we'd be grounded.
So don't miss the "Flight" show -- where Bill Nye takes you up, up, and awaaaay.