View Full Version : Great explanation of the laws of flight for birds...and aircraft!

17th Jan 2014, 10:12
From the BBC website :

BBC News - Fly like a bird: The V formation finally explained (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25736049)

tony draper
17th Jan 2014, 10:20
I thought that had been well understood for years? certainly remember reading about it many years ago.the birds took turns at being lead man or woman and changed places with another bird when they got tired to get a rest.
These bods should do a search before they start duplicating things that were done years ago.

17th Jan 2014, 11:05
To paraphrase Basil Fawlty, 'Next contestant, Dr Steven Portugal from Austria. Specialist subject - the bleeding obvious.'

17th Jan 2014, 11:33
Tony, I agree, it's not news at all, merely just re-discovered by self styled experts probably fresh out of a uni course somewhere!

The only thing that surprised me was "the experts" didn't know this already.

As a kid into ornithology some fifty years ago I knew this. Somewhere I have an old bird identification book with an explanation of this, probably dating back to the 1960s or before.

17th Jan 2014, 11:46
I have an old bird identification book Does it have their 'phone numbers Shy? :E

17th Jan 2014, 11:52
Nah, all of them in that book will have long dropped off the perch by now! ;)

17th Jan 2014, 12:39
There has even been research into autopilot formation flying, in order to exploit the energy-saving, and thus fuel-saving possibilities. Nothing new in this story!!

Here's the report, for anyone interested...


17th Jan 2014, 14:50
The birds aren't THAT smart - they were all formating on the motor/cockpit and not the parachute (which would be producing the wingtip vortices they are after.) :rolleyes:

17th Jan 2014, 14:55

Dead right. Lots of studies done in the 50's, 60's and 70's
and it was well known why.

Windy Militant
17th Jan 2014, 15:01
If you read through the fluff you'll find that what's different here is that every individual bird was telemetered for a number of parameters such as position, heart rate etc.
It's nothing that wasn't known before but this has refined the data from earlier research. Which is what scientists do when they're not dressing up in silly costumes and going to comic book conventions. ;)

17th Jan 2014, 15:17
Yes, W.M., that's exactly right! The point here is that it has, for the first time, been looked at in-depth.
If you chaps actually read the journal article rather than the BBC translation then you'll see that the first three sentences say exactly what you lot are saying: That the reasons for formation flying are well known.
The next two sentences state that the exact reasons for this are not well known. The rest of the abstract shows what is actually new.

See for yourself here: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v505/n7483/full/nature12939.html

It's always worth reading the actual article rather than the BBC stuff. The BBC reporters are not experts and usually miss the point, or at least write an article that enables the reader to miss the point.

17th Jan 2014, 15:25
Indeed, reading it I got the impression was that this time they have managed to show how using the tip vortices affects the birds physiologically and also modelling the vortices to show that the birds actually all synchronized their wing beats to make most effective use of the updraft rather than just simply flying in it.

17th Jan 2014, 15:56
Man copied the bird. But who did the bird copy? Impressive. :D

17th Jan 2014, 16:15
Vee Formation explained.....I thought that was merely telling us that only one out three RAF pilots knew how to navigate.:E

Windy Militant
17th Jan 2014, 17:15
Man copied the bird. But who did the bird copy?
Terry Dactyl of course! :p

Romeo Oscar Golf
17th Jan 2014, 17:17
one out three RAF pilots knew how to navigate
...................and that's being generous:E

17th Jan 2014, 17:50
These bods should do a search before they start duplicating things that were done years ago.

History doesn't repeat itself. Historians repeat each other.

DX Wombat
17th Jan 2014, 19:37
How to fly like a bird: flap wings - fly, stop flapping SPLAT!

17th Jan 2014, 20:19
birds fly in the V formation due to the inherent bodily function of defecating during flight. The V is the natural response to avoid getting the stuff in their eyes and losing control due to loss of horzon.

18th Jan 2014, 12:48
Admittedly, I'm pretty ignorant of all the traditional advantages which may be conveyed to wild birds from flying in the so-called "V" formation. Birdies (directly-descended from dinosaurs after all) and engaged in long-distance migrations especially, have had a very long time to develop such strategies for whatever reasons.

However, the so-called "V" formation as it is commonly known is completely incorrect. The proper terminology is an "inverted V", or "Lambda" Λ in the Greek alphabet. Now that I've got that misconception of the masses out of the way, I can make my main point:

During the 1st Gulf War, the allies took to painting "Lambda" Λs on most sides of their military vehicles etc., so as to distinguish "friend from foe" (see example below):


Coincidently, many migratory birdies also use the general area of Iraq, Syria etc. when traversing to/from their European / Asian and African habitats. I've much respect for birdies in general - they're intelligent and possess many other admirable qualities which I won't go into here and now.

I'm assuming (merely) that migrating birdies have ever since thought to themselves "What the heck? If flying in an "inverted V" formation has stood the test of time, why change anything now, especially if it also protects us from the ground-based predators or ack-ack...?!"

18th Jan 2014, 13:53
Actually, it's more commonly known as "Vic" or "Arrow" in aviation.

18th Jan 2014, 13:58
The ^ symbol is also used when packaging as an internationally recognised 'this way up' symbol (recognized, that is, by all couriers except the ones that I have used... :{).

Following on from what Airship wrote, this is what happens if you leave the 'This way up symbol off':
http://www.wnyc.org/i/620/350/80/photologue/photos/Allora%20%26%20Calzadilla%20Track%20%26%20Field%20Tascha%20H orowitz%20%28IMA%29.jpg

18th Jan 2014, 15:57
The fly in lambda formation when migrating North, and V formation when heading south. ;)

19th Jan 2014, 13:41
Hmmm, I get the feeling that this thread might soon be transformed into some form of "conveyor-belt" one. :ok:

Re: Mechta's photo of the inverted tank, if the runner (or several) ran fast-enough / long-enough etc., would that enable someone inside the tank to perhaps gradually change the horizontal orientation of the turret, suitably elevating (or in this case descending) the gun itself, to a suffcient angle and pivot-point so as to allow the tank to self-right, perhaps in conjunction with firing an AP-round at the crucial moment...?