Top Gun Maverick Aerodynamics - Our Top Scenes Analyzed


Top Gun Maverick Aerodynamics - Our Top Scenes Analyzed

Learn more about airplane aerodynamics: In this video we go over some of the coolest scenes of the Top Gun Maverick movie which include aerodynamics effects. The first one is about the Dark Star, the plane in which Maverick is going for Mach 10. The plane itself is supercool and was conceptualized together with Lockheed Martin. But I was left with one question: when he is at around Mach 9, he makes a turn! Why would you make a turn when you are going for a top speed record? That would result in massive G-forces on both the plane and the pilot, only to generate extra drag and slow it down. Perhaps I am missing something, perhaps they did the same with the X-15 back in the days, but it felt like a dragster taking a corner. The next scenes involve the F18, a fairly dated fighter jet used by the Top Gun pilots in this movie. One is where Maverick pulls up from low level flight. Pulling up like this creates massive vortices which are nicely captured by the dust on the ground. Another scene is where the pilots are speeding up, breaking the sound barrier at Mach 1. You can hear the sonic boom and you can also visually see the planes going through some sort of white disc - or a vapor cone as they call it. It has long been thought that this cone was the actual sound barrier, but it is not. The air is first compressed and heated up by the first shockwave. Behind the shockwave is the expansion wave, lowering the pressure again. If there is enough humidity, the water vapor will condense and form the white cone you can see. After that, the air is compressed again by a second shock wave, eliminating the vapor. And then there is the famous Cobra maneuver, or dynamic deceleration. If you are being chased by the enemy, you can abruptly raise the nose of the plane to a more or less vertical position. At such an extreme angle of attack, the plane momentarily goes into stall and will act like an air brake, slowing it down. After the chasing airplane has passed underneath you, you pull the noise back down and resume level flight, only now you are in the chasing position. A final remark relates to motorbikes, one of our favorite areas of development. As you may know, the rider on a motorbike creates a large wake behind him, dragging air along. Filling that void with something that is slightly smaller than the rider itself and is closely attached to it to maintain a nice flow can help to reduce the wake, boost efficiency and reduce fuel consumption. So when taking Penny for a ride on the back of his motorcycle, Maverick was probably thinking of the environment. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The AirShaper videos cover the basics of aerodynamics (aerodynamic drag, drag & lift coefficients, boundary layer theory, flow separation, reynolds number...), simulation aspects (computational fluid dynamics, CFD meshing, ...) and aerodynamic testing (wind tunnel testing, flow visualization, ...). We then use those basics to explain the aerodynamics of (race) cars (aerodynamic efficiency of electric vehicles, aerodynamic drag, downforce, aero maps, formula one aerodynamics, ...), drones and airplanes (propellers, airfoils, electric aviation, eVTOLS, ...), motorcycles (wind buffeting, motogp aerodynamics, ...) and more! For more information, visit

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