How do Planes Take Off and Land Vertically?

            One of the most exciting developments in aircraft technology has been the VTOL aircraft. VTOL means vertical take off and landing planes. The most successful aircraft of this type has been the British made harrier jump jet.

Airplane Take Off 

            Normal twin-jet aircraft have the jet engines fixed horizontally at the sides of the aircraft, or to the wings. Single jet engine aircraft have the engine built into the fuselage of the aircraft. In both, air is sucked in form the front, mixed with fuel in the compression chamber and the exhaust gases are ejected from the rear, thrusting the plane forward. VTOL planes make use of the same process, but their jet engines can be temporarily re-positioned vertically. The exhaust is directed downwards and the resultant thrust is directed upwards.

            Normally the same engines that produce lift are used to propel the aircraft forward. This is done by realigning the engines angle of tilt.

            VTOL aircraft are used mainly for military purposes. Very powerful engines are required for vertical take off, and therefore they produce a lot of noise. Some types of VTOL planes have separate engines to provide lift and for forward propulsion.

            These aircraft do not need long runways for takeoff and landing. They need a small piece of level ground or deck space on an aircraft carrier not much longer than its own length, and once it is in the air, it can fly at supersonic speeds. Since their wings can usually be folded when in storage, they are ideal for use on aircraft carriers where space is limited, and are perfect for reconnaissance or attack roles, as evidenced in their use by the USA in operation Iraqi freedom.