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Having reviewed the general properties of fluids, we are ready now to consider the earth's atmosphere in greater detail. "'Actually, cabin pressure in a modern transport aircraft operating at high cruising altitudes is normally somewhat less than 1 atm to ease the pressurization problem. 46 What Makes Airplanes Fly The Atmosphere of the Earth CHAPrER 4 JJi? live submerged at the bottom of an ocean of the element air, which by unquestioned experiments is known to have weight, and so much, indeed, that near the surface of the earth where it is most dense, it weighs (volume for volume) about the four-hundredth part ofthe weight of water ...

1 History and Composition The atmosphere of the earth is a thin spherical shroud composed of a mixture of gases and retained by gravitational attraction. It extends to a great height, but conventional flight is possible only in its denser layers. In fact, about 99% of the total mass of the air is found below about 40 kIn (25 miles). Commercial airliners fly considerably below this height at roughly 30,000 to 50,000 ft (9 to 15 kIn), with the supersonic Concorde going to about 60,000 ft. General aviation* is concentrated at much lower altitudes.

If the earth were a ball with a radius of one meter (roughly three feet), breathable air would extend only one millimeter (one twenty-fifth inch) outward. This thin layer of air makes life on earth possible. Planets such as Mars with a smaller mass and consequently a weaker gravitational attraction have a more tenuous atmosphere than ours, while yet smaller heavenly bodies such as our moon cannot retain a gaseous shell at all. This is in contrast to Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.

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Aircraft powerplant handbook


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