JOHN TIERNEY’s column in today’s New York Times on NASCAR’s flirtation with aerodynamics reminded me of my father’s (Fritz Feldmann) pre-WW II studies of migrating gulls at the ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) in Zurich, where he obtained his PhD in aeronautical engineering.
He noticed that birds on long distance flights use a V – formation for a
reason similar to that of race cars keeping in the “shadow” of the
leading vehicle: a calming of turbulence, plus the slight compression
of air caused by the leading bird’s wing stroke. Thus the leading bird
does more work during flight. He found that the task of leading the
“V” was shared in rotation among the flock, as the lead bird tired,
another took its place.