The Science of Flight

In partnership with
Professor James W. Gregory, Ph.D.
The Ohio State University
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4.6 out of 5
86 Reviews
86% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 1321
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What Will You Learn?

  • The true origin of lift, drag, and stall.
  • The function of all those instruments in the cockpit.
  • What air traffic controllers do.
  • The nature of the "sound barrier."
  • How rockets and orbits work.
  • Historic exploits and tragic accidents in air and space.

Course Overview

Many of us board a plane without understanding what a truly extraordinary experience flight is: suspended 30,000 feet or more in the air, propelled to our destination at close to the speed of sound, protected from extreme cold and low pressure by the thin skin of the aircraft. We realize it’s complicated, but few of us know how it works. Even more remarkable is space flight, the “rocket science” that we use as a benchmark of difficulty or complexity.

Yet the related principles of atmospheric flight and space flight are not difficult at all, and the study of these two miracles of modern engineering is a wide-ranging lesson in physics, technology, and history. No organization is more authoritative on this subject than the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) and its annex, the Udvar-Hazy Center. Together, they host the world’s premier collections of air and space artifacts and the home to some of the most distinguished scholars in the field.

The Great Courses is proud to join forces with the Smithsonian to explain flight as it’s never been explained before. In 24 visually rich half-hour lectures, The Science of Flight covers the inner workings of gliders, airplanes, helicopters, rockets, spacecraft, and other flying machines, illustrated by the incomparable holdings of NASM and with commentary by the museum’s internationally renowned curators.

The Science of Flight is taught by award-winning educator James W. Gregory, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Ohio State University. An instrument-rated private pilot as well as an engineer, Professor Gregory gives as thorough an explanation of the principles of flight, rocketry, and related topics as you’ll get outside of flight school. Throughout, his beautifully clear lectures are supplemented by incisive commentary from NASM experts, who put everything from airfoils to orbits into a fascinating historical context.

The more than one dozen curators and other NASM staff featured in this course include:

  • Tom Crouch: The Senior Curator of Aeronautics at NASM, Dr. Crouch surveys the celebrated early days of aviation. A noted historian, he is the author of a bestselling biography of the Wright brothers.
  • John D. Anderson, Jr.: Serving as technical consultant for the course, Dr. Anderson is the Curator of Aerodynamics at NASM. He draws on his love of aviation engineering history to illuminate pioneering breakthroughs in the field.
  • Dorothy Cochrane: NASM’s Curator of General Aviation, Cochrane focuses on the feats of extraordinary civilian pilots, including aerobatic champions and record-breaking long-distance fliers.
  • Roger Launius: The Senior Curator of Space History at NASM and formerly Chief Historian for NASA, Dr. Launius predicts the future of space travel, weighing past exploits and present plans.

And this is just some of the remarkable talent assembled for this course.

Think Like an Aeronautical Engineer

Aviation has advanced hand-in-hand with our growing understanding of the physics of flight—what causes lift, how to reduce drag, the complex events in the transonic realm. This makes NASM the ideal laboratory for explaining revolutionary milestones—from the three-axis control system of the original Wright Flyer that made winged flight practical; to the supercharged Rolls Royce Merlin engine that gave the P-51 Mustang a winning edge in World War II; to the thermal tile system that allowed the Space Shuttle to survive dozens of reentries from space.

In The Science of Flight, Professor Gregory delves deeply into these and many other developments, explaining how they work at a fundamental level, down to the equations that govern such phenomena as wing loading, parasitic drag, induced drag, power in a reciprocating engine, and thrust in a jet or rocket engine. Using almost no higher mathematics than high-school-level algebra, Dr. Gregory demonstrates how aeronautical engineers think, analyzing forces to predict exactly what will happen with a particular airfoil, structural material, power plant, and scores of other design features.

Such an inquiring attitude will pay off next time you’re in the air, alerting you to intriguing observations like these:

  • Lift made visible: Watch the wing as you accelerate down the runway. As lift builds, you will see the wing bend upward. On large aircraft made of composite materials, such as the Boeing 787, the deflection can be substantial, as much as twelve feet at the wing tip!
  • Wing origami: The sound of hydraulic actuators is your clue to look out the window and observe the wing dramatically change shape prior to landing. By deploying slats on the leading edge and flaps on the trailing edge, higher lift is produced for a safe landing at a relatively low speed.
  • A shocking sight: Supersonic flight is hampered by the formation of shock waves that constitute the notorious “sound barrier.” Under the right lighting, you can see the shadow of a shock wave on the wing of a passenger jet cruising at a four-fifths of the speed of sound.
  • Breathtaking: Commercial jets fly at an altitude that would challenge human survival if the plane was not pressurized. However, the cabin is not set to sea-level pressure but to the equivalent of a high-elevation city such as Santa Fe or Mexico City. This can cause shortness of breath for some passengers.

Let Your Understanding of Flight Take Wing!

One big advantage of taking the engineer’s approach to understanding flight is that it clears up common misconceptions. For example, a frequently heard explanation of lift is that air rushing past a wing has farther to go along the curved upper surface than along the flat underside. According to this view, the top flow of air must go faster to “catch up” with air directed along the bottom. Faster-moving air equals lower pressure, which equals lift. The last sentence is correct, but the rest of the explanation is wrong—as shown by the existence of symmetrical airfoils and planes that fly upside-down.

To get at the real origin of lift, Professor Gregory uses conservation of mass and momentum, a garden-hose analogy, and a standard illustration of smoke streamlines around an airfoil. In subsequent lectures, he employs the same ideas to explore drag. And when it comes to discussing the potentially fatal interplay of lift and drag known as stall, Dr. Gregory takes his private plane aloft and demonstrates an actual stall, explaining why it happens and showing how to recover from it.

Like driver education classes, flight schools frequently warn students with accounts of preventable mishaps such as pilot errors, icing incidents, fueling mistakes, unrecognized design flaws, and other conditions that have led to harrowing landings and often tragedies. Dr. Gregory recounts several memorable cases, underlining how knowledge is power in reducing such incidents.

But along with the cautionary tales, he and his NASM collaborators provide plenty of uplifting stories of pilots, astronauts, and engineers who mastered their craft and achieved wonders in air and space. Thanks to Professor Gregory and the Smithsonian, the drama, romance, and science of this incomparable endeavor truly take wing in The Science of Flight.

Additionally, you’ll receive five bonus interviews with NASM experts, providing further insights into the subjects explored throughout the course. You will hear Dr. John Anderson delve into Gustave Eiffel's wind tunnels, the Wright Flyer, and the science of engineering faster flights. Dr. Tom Crouch explores the Wright Brothers’ and innovation, and Dr. Roger Launius dives into the inventive new ways we are working to fly higher, faster, and further.

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29 lectures
 |  Average 29 minutes each
  • 1
    Fundamentals of Flight: Gliding
    How did two world-class pilots coax their glider to a new altitude record? Focus on this feat as a lesson in the key principles of winged flight—including angle of attack, lift, drag, thrust, and weight. Also explore “the miracle on the Hudson,” when airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger glided his jet to an emergency water landing. Close your first lesson with an investigation of the control inputs: yaw, roll, and pitch. x
  • 2
    Balloons, Buoyancy, and the Atmosphere
    Balloons were the first vehicles to fly and Archimedes' principle is the secret of their lift-carrying power. Use the ideal gas law to determine air density and the hydrostatic equation to chart air pressure versus altitude. Then apply these concepts to lighter-than-air craft to learn how the Breitling Orbiter balloon was able to circumnavigate the globe non-stop. x
  • 3
    Takeoff: How Wings Produce Lift
    Lift is the fundamental force involved in winged flight. It is also fraught with misunderstanding. Debunk a popular but incorrect explanation of lift, known as the equal-time theory. Then gain a deep appreciation for the power of air flowing around an airfoil at differing angles of attack. Also examine Albert Einstein's misguided attempt to design a better airfoil. x
  • 4
    Drag Trade-Offs and Boundary-Layer Turbulence
    Focus on parasitic drag, a byproduct of moving an aircraft through the air, which has no practical benefit and is therefore like a parasite. Zero in on two aspects of parasitic drag: skin friction and pressure. Observe how these phenomena arise and how they can be reduced, which is a key goal of aircraft design. Learn about laminar flow as well as golf ball design. x
  • 5
    Stall Events and Lift-Induced Drag
    Aerodynamic stall occurs when lift suddenly decreases, causing drag to rise steeply. Consider the role of stall in several notable air accidents, and see a demonstration in which Professor Gregory deliberately pilots a plane through a stall, showing how to recover. Also look at technological measures to combat stall and the problem of induced drag. x
  • 6
    Wind Tunnels and Predicting Aerodynamics
    Starting with the Wright brothers, trace the role of wind tunnels for studying lift and drag on aircraft structures—research that sparked the rapid advancement of aviation. Aerodynamic research also involves analysis and computations. Get a taste of this process by analyzing conservation of mass, momentum, and energy as they relate to lift and drag. x
  • 7
    Propeller Aircraft: Slow and Efficient
    Apply concepts of lift and drag to propulsion, focusing on the internal combustion engine and propeller—still the most efficient power plant for aircraft flying at low speeds. Study the four-cycle engine and the design of propellers, which are rotating wings twisted to present an optimum angle of attack across their entire length. x
  • 8
    Jet Aircraft: Thrust to Fly Fast
    Propeller-driven aircraft drop sharply in efficiency at high fractions of the speed of sound. For sustained high-speed flight, a different propulsion system is needed—the jet engine. Trace the history of jets and their super-efficient variant used on commercial airliners—the high-bypass turbofan, a machine so intricate and beautiful that a piece of one is on display at the Museum of Modern Art. x
  • 9
    Aircraft Structures and Materials
    For anyone who gets the jitters during heavy turbulence, fear not: the plane is designed to take it! Follow the evolution of airframes from wood to metal to today's composite materials. Consider the problem of designing a sturdy structure that is still light enough to fly efficiently. Also look at tragic accidents that revealed the limits of certain materials and led to safer planes. x
  • 10
    Aircraft Stability and Flight Control
    Trace the quest for stable, controlled flight back to aviation pioneers Samuel P. Langley, the Wright brothers, and Glenn Curtiss. Stability means producing forces that restore an aircraft to equilibrium when perturbed, while control entails deflection of control surfaces to alter the pitch, roll, or yaw effects that act on the aircraft's center of gravity. x
  • 11
    Flying Faster and Higher
    Enter the realm of extreme flight, exploring how fast and how high a plane can go. The answers are remarkably precise and help define a given aircraft's flight envelope. Learn how aeronautical engineers calculate parameters such as airspeed for best climb angle, service ceiling, absolute ceiling, time to climb, stall speed, maximum speed, and speed for optimal cruise. x
  • 12
    Breaking the Sound Barrier and Beyond
    During and just after World War II, the quest for ever faster fighter planes reached an apparent natural barrier—the speed of sound. On approaching this limit, aircraft became unstable and uncontrollable. Discover how a new approach to aircraft design solved the problem of compressibility and shock waves in this transonic region, paving the way for supersonic flight. x
  • 13
    Long-Distance Flight and Predicting Range
    Planes take off with only the fuel required for the planned trip—plus a safety margin. Since there are no filling stations in the sky, the calculations must be precise, taking account of the plane’s performance characteristics, the weather, and other factors. Learn the equations that pilots use and hear a riveting story about what happens when they get it wrong. x
  • 14
    Aerobatics and Dogfighting
    Dogfighting is not just about stick-and-rudder skills; a pilot must understand the physics behind aerial maneuvering. Focus on turn performance, which is the key factor that limits maneuverability and is the cause of many fatal loss-of-control accidents. Learn how energy management is the secret of success in aerial combat, and get tips on performing a barrel roll. x
  • 15
    Mission Profiles and Aircraft Design
    Roll up your sleeves and learn how to design an aircraft, using an approach that has hardly changed in a century of building new airplanes. Start out by determining the weight values, maximum lift coefficient, wing loading, and thrust-to-weight ratio. Next lay out a configuration. Finally, iterate, making modifications and adjustments to perfect your vehicle. x
  • 16
    Primary Cockpit Instruments
    Focus on the science and engineering of the flight instruments. First, look at the hazards faced by even experienced pilots in the era before the altimeter and attitude indicator, learning how these vital instruments work. Then consider the importance of the airspeed indicator, turn coordinator, heading indicator, and vertical speed indicator. x
  • 17
    Air Traffic Navigation and Communication
    On a typical weekday, five to ten thousand aircraft are in the air over the U.S. at a given moment, flying to different cities at varying speeds and different altitudes. Survey the methods, tools, and jargon of air traffic controllers, who keep this traffic moving safely and expeditiously. Also look ahead to next-generation enhancements in the air traffic control system. x
  • 18
    Flight Autonomy and Drones
    Automated flight systems are increasingly used in human-piloted aircraft, where their nearly fail-safe expertise creates some unusual problems. Also look at remotely piloted vehicles, also called drones. Pioneered by the military, these are taking to the sky for a variety of practical civilian missions, including recreational uses. x
  • 19
    Helicopters and Vertical Flight
    Helicopters are so unlike fixed-wing aircraft in appearance and operation that it's hard to believe they work on the same aerodynamics principles. Focus on their ingenious rotor blades, which are rotating wings. Explore the challenge of flying a chopper, and learn why it's safer to lose power at altitude in a helicopter than in an airplane. x
  • 20
    Rocket Science and the Evolution of Launch
    Fly beyond the atmosphere with the only vehicle now capable of reaching space—the rocket. Discover that rocket science is not “rocket science,” in the sense of being extraordinarily difficult. It’s just basic physics and chemistry. Review the fundamentals of solid and liquid propellants, thrust, specific impulse, stability, nozzle design, and the advantages of using multiple stages. x
  • 21
    Orbiting Earth Means Always Falling
    Having ascended into space in the previous lecture, now investigate your orbital options. Whether you go into a circular, elliptical, or Earth-escape orbit—or make it into orbit at all—depends on your cutoff velocity. Calculate different orbits, including the Hohmann transfer ellipse needed for efficiently changing orbits. Also relive the orbital rendezvous exploits of Gemini 8 and Apollo 11. x
  • 22
    To Mars and Beyond: Gravity-Assist Flight
    Venture beyond Earth to the realm of the planets. Interplanetary trajectories require exquisite timing so that the target planet is in exactly the right spot when the spacecraft arrives, often by a Hohmann transfer ellipse. Consider two fuel-saving approaches to these marathon journeys—gravity assists and ion propulsion. x
  • 23
    Atmospheric Reentry: Ballistic, Skip, Glide
    Now return to Earth, analyzing the problem of decelerating from orbital or escape speed to a gentle touchdown on land or water. Calculate the amount of energy that must be lost during the plunge through the atmosphere, and consider three approaches to reentry, including that of the Space Shuttle, which unfortunately ended tragically for Columbia in 2003. Also look at the dire reentry scenario faced by Apollo 13 in 1970. x
  • 24
    The Future of Air and Space Flight
    Close by probing future developments in air and space flight. See these two realms combined in two vehicles: the White Knight aircraft that launches the Space Ship One capsule, and the proposed Mars atmospheric flyer. Consider technically possible devices such as the space elevator, solar-powered aircraft, and personal air vehicles. And that's just the beginning, for the sky is truly the limit! x
  • 25
    Bonus Material: Gustave Eiffel's Wind Tunnels
    Interview with Dr. John Anderson regarding Gustave Eiffel's Wind Tunnels and his career as an applied scientist in the field of aerodynamics. Dr. Anderson is the Curator of Aeronautical Engineering, Aeronautics Department at Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. x
  • 26
    Bonus Material: Engineering Faster Flight Speeds
    Interview with Dr. John Anderson regarding flight speed engineering. x
  • 27
    Bonus Material: Why the Wright Flyer Succeeded
    Interview with Dr. John Anderson regarding how and what contributed to the success of the Wright Flyer. x
  • 28
    Bonus Material: The Wright Brothers' Innovations
    Interview with Dr. Tom Crouch regarding the many innovations of the Wright Brothers. Dr. Crouch is the Senior Curator, Aeronautics Department at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. x
  • 29
    Bonus Material: Higher, Farther, Faster
    Interview with Dr. Roger D. Launius, Former Associate Director of Collections and Curatorial Affairs with Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. x

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Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Ability to download 24 video lectures and 5 bonus video interviews from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures plus 5 bonus video interviews on 4 DVDs
  • 312-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 312-page printed course guidebook
  • Suggested Reading
  • Questions to Consider
  • Bibliography

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Your professor

James W. Gregory

About Your Professor

James W. Gregory, Ph.D.
The Ohio State University
James W. Gregory is Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at The Ohio State University. He received a bachelor of science degree in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Tech and a doctorate in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue University. He is also an instrument-rated private pilot with more than 200 hours of flight time in gliders and single- and multi-engine aircraft. Prior to his arrival at Ohio State...
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The Science of Flight is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 86.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from much good information This course contains much good information, and the extensive use of visual clips adds to its appeal. However, it falls short of being excellent because some of Professor Gregory's explanations are not entirely clear, he doesn't explain all technical terms, and he covers material very quickly. Note that equations are frequently used to make points, which did not trouble me as a math degree holder, but might lose those not as familiar with math. Expect a technical class, and you will be more satisfied with this course. Most of the production is good, but again the camera operators felt compelled to use moving shots from well above the professor's head and also from a perspective very near the floor. Distracting at best, often annoying, with the background swimming around as you try to pay attention to the speaker. Some slides also had minor editing issues. Overall this is a worthwhile class, but a second edition, that gave the professor more time to explain the same material and offered some improved production attributes, could be excellent.
Date published: 2018-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating facts & history Very informative and interesting presentation. Easy to understand.
Date published: 2018-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Couse for anyone with a science or engineeri As mentioned in the title, this is a great course for someone with a science or engineering background. If not, it might be just a good course. For an old nerd like me it was terrific!
Date published: 2018-01-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from fascinating physics Very thorough and interesting course on physics of flight. I now understand how planes stay aloft and how rockets fly as well. My only criticism is that the professor uses a lot of physics algebraic equations so it is best to have a good background in higher math and basic physics or one could get lost.
Date published: 2018-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Science of Flight Having worked in the Aerospace Industry 25 years, I was very happy learning the flight principles behind the aircraft I had worked on. I enjoyed this course sufficiently that I sent a copy of the course to my grandson, an Aerodynamic Engineer graduate and future airline pilot. I very much enjoyed the first hand experiences of the instructor and the film backups, Smithsonian included.
Date published: 2018-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent introduction and overview! I've been in aviation for over 40 years, and every so often a product or presentation comes along that makes even an old grizzled aviator such as myself take pause. "Science of Flight" is one such presentation. It is sufficiently in depth to engage the expert, while not abandoning the neophyte. I encourage all holding even a passing interest in "man's greatest adventure" to get this. It will certainly add new life to those staid monthly "hangar meetings."
Date published: 2018-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Calling all arm chair pilots!!! This is an ace! I have always enjoyed Great Courses and this one is no exception. While I failed basic algebra in high school, and find the mathematical explanations behind flight science a bit wieldy, the fact that I can replay this DVD over and over until I "get it" is one of the best features of this course. Current topics are a plus and hold your attention, such as the recent air "incident" with golfer Paine Stewart. The DVD format, with many visual references, is excellent. Great visuals of planes/equipment/flight controls/etc. are interspersed with explanations so that you will fully understand the science behind the miracle of flight.
Date published: 2018-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great and VERY detailed - too technical in places. good - corrected big misconception I had for years about how lift is created.
Date published: 2018-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful series I can't imagine a better course. Loved, loved, loved, the fluid dynamics discussions and equations, and not at all -that- foreboding. My mechanical engineer son, who had just finished a college senior level course in Fluid Dynamics, walked in during my viewing of one of the lectures and remarked, half-jokingly, “Yuck” (I think it reminded him of some tough slogging) but to me it was wonderful. LOL. From the first lecture to the last, I was enthralled. Even that last lecture, which I thought was going to be a ‘throw away’, was NOT – it was filled with some real insight of ‘where to next’. Wonderful. The short intros featuring the Smithsonian staff and exhibits were a great addition, as were the added, bonus, short lectures. For me, at least, I have to say, “What more could you ask for!?”
Date published: 2017-12-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Eye opening. Profound. Engrossing. Combined with the "The Power of Mathematical Visualization" and "Do-It-Yourself Engineering," with "The Science of Flight" I am soaring into the depths of understanding and knowing beyond my expectations for an appreciation of what the world of aviation has brought us.
Date published: 2017-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Informative Science is not usually my favorite topic. However, I occasionally enjoy a really well-presented science class that is made understandable to laymen. This class fits the bill. The professor made the topic informative and understandable, a hard combination sometimes. Sure, there are parts where the professor spent time going over formulas and equations, and I will admit to not trying too hard to follow those. The professor did a good job explaining even for those of us who don't really want to understand complicated mathematical equations. He kept the topic lively and fast-paced for a science class. I am looking forward to my next plane flight to see if I can notice some of the concepts that he talked about such as the way that wings are designed to change shape to help flying and landing.
Date published: 2017-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Science of Flight Jus t started really impressed! I will be sharing with my local EAA chapter.
Date published: 2017-11-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Returned the Video I only watched one class and returned it. I have watched about 12 courses. I like science and engineering courses, among other things, and had high hopes for this one---I know nothing about aeronautics. The professor is very knowledgeable and some parts presented scientific information well. But the course is overproduced, and gimmicky, and is childish at points. For example it had a little section showing the prof in a cockpit and explaining how to land with no power. Stephen Ressler and Robert Hazen know how to present science and engineering clearly and even entertainingly, but not as if the students are in Middle School.
Date published: 2017-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Science of Flight This series of lectures was very well prepared, well explained, thorough, and it remains interesting throughout all its lectures. I do not have an engineering background but I have a background in Science and great interest in flight, so it has provided me with answers to many questions that I have had for years. The science of flight continues to interest me and fill me with awe, and it will continue to do so for years to come.
Date published: 2017-10-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow, What a Great Experience! Astonishingly good course! Don't miss this one! Always in well-poised, easy, comfortable command of -- and communication to me about -- his subject matter and nearly every time showing just the perfect demonstration or just the right moving-image footage to expand my understanding of the talk, Prof Gregory kept me riveted to the screen through the whole thing. All I can say is: WOW!
Date published: 2017-10-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Overview of the Main Issues of Aircraft Flight. I don't like the way the introductory speeches are placed ahead of the Chapter Thumbnails instead of after them.
Date published: 2017-10-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Science of Flight This is the first I've tried any of The Great Courses but I like this one so much it will not be the last. I love the way the mathematics of flight is integrated, it's the way mathematics should be taught. Very well done.
Date published: 2017-10-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The course is a nice overview for those interested I have watched several chapters so far. I learned things about flight I never knew.
Date published: 2017-10-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very In-Depth! If you have a background in mathematics or engineering, and have a liking for aviation, you WILL like this course! I have a love for aviation, but do not possess a degree in math or engineering, but I still enjoyed the course. The material is presented using very technical mathematical formulas, much of the time. The study of fluid dynamics, calculating wing loading, thrust, etc. is not for the faint-at-heart. But Professor James Gregory does a superb job of presenting the intricacies and variables involved with the Science of Flight, so I would have to agree that it is appropriately names. Dr. Gregory truly knows his stuff and is a VERY good presenter. He knows how to connect with his audience through the camera. Speaking from someone who has a little experience with presentations, it is very challenging, but he is smooth and confident. Thank you Dr. Gregory! You really caused me to stretch further than ever before in understanding mathematical concepts that I was only vaguely familiar. It was a worthwhile investment of the reasonable cost of the course and even more, my time. The partnership with the Smithsonian was a real treat. At the beginning of each lecture, there was an curator of the Air and Space Museum that would provide an introduction to a specific topic on flight, and later space. There are an additional five bonus videos of talks from various curators that were all great to watch. I only wish that The Great Courses producers would have thought of including one of these talks at the end of some of the lectures. It just seems like a shame that five video shoots were kind of "orphaned", but the included this material anyway! That is even misleading because the last video is over 20 minutes. This one comprises of several videos spliced together of Dr. Roger Launius. He really has a lot to share, I wish they would have done this last video in an interview setting, so you can understand his responses to what was probably posed as questions.
Date published: 2017-10-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable and Educational Primer about Flight I learned a lot about the science of flight after studying this offering. I must say I was a bit lost with the equations pertaining to the physics of flight, but I understand they are necessary to really understand what's behind lift, drag and other unfamiliar terms. I enjoyed something I've always wanted to understand better.
Date published: 2017-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Course Highly Recommended As a person who has been a passenger on many flights and a student pilot in the Civil Air Patrol, I found this course to be tremendously interesting. The visuals used were relevant and very useful. I appreciated the mathematics that was presented to illustrate the principles being discussed. If one really wants to know about the science of flight, this is the course to study. All types of aircraft and spacecraft are covered. A comprehensive history of human experiences with flight were covered. I appreciated the professor's presentation style and his experience as a pilot. I'm very happy that I studied this course and recommend it to everyone who really wants to know about the science of flight.
Date published: 2017-09-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Accessible and Fascinating This course is really fun! The instructor is both knowledgeable and personable. He uses real life stories to illustrate the concepts being presented which really make them come alive.
Date published: 2017-09-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good But A Little Dry At Times I approached this course with a good deal of interest. As a former Air Force Aircraft Maintenace Officer with over 26 years experience on numerous types of aircraft, I bought the course to fill in some of the scientific details I had experienced in my career. I was especially interested in the input of the Smithsonian experts. For the most part, the course satisfied my desire to learn more of the scientific basis for flight. Without a doubt, Professor Gregory knows his business and offered sound principles for the science behind why aircraft act as they do. The one thing that I noted that could have been improved was a little less time on actually working through the physical equations and spending more time on the flight dynamics. At times I found myself becoming bogged down in minor details. If you are interested in designing or engineering aircraft, you probably would appreciate this course more then a person who is taking the course to understand the basic principles of flight. A good course but one I found a little lacking.
Date published: 2017-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Knowledgeable and Entertaining This is a great way to learn the theory of flight and the practicality. Besides being entertaining showing the bravery and creativity in designing airplanes, this course is simply fun to watch!
Date published: 2017-09-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Science of Flight Well done, but even as a pilot I found it too very deep.
Date published: 2017-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Partnership with the Smithsonian Ever since I was a young child, I have been fascinated by flying. I had what to be a pilot but my eyesight did not make that dream possible. Consequently, I pursued other scientific and engineering endeavors but have also retained flying in my heart. Even though I cannot be the pilot, I have flown over 1.5 million miles in hot air balloons, helicopters, small planes, jet planes and jumbo planes. However, I did not fully understand the science behind flying. I am still awed to see a 747 takeoff; it is hard to believe that something that big can fly. As part of the partnership of the Smithsonian and The Great Courses, each lecture is a combination of both. Each lecture has a prologue of about 5 minutes provided by Smithsonian staff and other historical individuals which provide some of the historical aspects of the lecture topic. These prologues are staged within the Smithsonian’s museum to show the specific aircraft or space vehicles in the background. In the lectures, Professor Gregory mentions some of these historical events but focus on the scientific and engineering principles. Professor Gregory explains the how and why with excellent graphics and with demonstrations with actual apparatus. Since Professor Gregory is also a pilot, some of these principles are shown in actual aircraft. In these lectures, Professor Gregory also discusses some flight failures. He explains what happened and why it ended in an aircraft crash. Professor Gregory quotes the adage – “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots. But, there are no old bold pilots”. As Professor Gregory explains some of these crashes were due to the human error of bold inexperienced pilots. These lectures are conducted in a studio with a background covered with very photographs and other aerospace items. Other courses from The Great Courses also use a studio configured to make the lecture topic. However, what is unique for this course is that the studio is not static like the other courses. Some of the photographs will change among the 24 lectures. This is a wonderful course even if you are afraid of flying.
Date published: 2017-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Excellent introduction to the science and history of flight. Particularly grateful for the engineering and scientific equations which validate the narrative...helping me to follow along. Only wish the equations were written out in the accompanying textbook. Really great to have included reference books for further reading.
Date published: 2017-09-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good info Well presented but too many formulas for a novice.
Date published: 2017-08-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Accessible and well taught Excellent introductory course. I would love to see a more advanced follow on.
Date published: 2017-08-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting--So Far ! I am only about half way thru this course, but it has been very interesting so far ! The focus on lift factors, drag, and power are good, along with the discussion of the math & its significance. I like the different format, with another person giving a preliminary discussion about the subject, prior to the beginning of the actual tutorial. My opinion of a course is based on whether I would like to view the course a second time--in this case, there are a few tutorials that I would benefit from seeing a second time, to ensure that I have captured the facts presented.
Date published: 2017-08-04
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