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If Viserion is

undead and rotting, which he is as you can see the holes in his wings,

wouldn't it be very hard for him to maintain altitude?

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    The answer is magic. Might as well ask why an ice zombie who's muscles have rotted away can walk... – kuhl Aug 29 '17 at 2:34
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    It might be easier. The Night King hasn’t just been sitting around since the Long Night, he’s been studying aerodynamics! First thing he did with his dragonwight was poke some fuel-saving holes in its wings. – Paul D. Waite Aug 29 '17 at 9:56
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    @kuhl: Assuming the animation of the bones is magic is fair enough, but their physical bodies still follow physics. They don't walk over water, they don't hover, they crawl when losing a limb. Viserion's flight capabilities should be similarly physically sound. Though in response to OP, Viserion's diminished wing lift can be negated by additional strength in flapping his wings (and wights seem to be stronger than their physical bodies would inherent allow them to be, so the animation adds to their strength). – Flater Aug 29 '17 at 10:28
  • OOU: Viserion's holes might make him slower and less maneuverable than the other dragons. The Night King would be overmatched in a 1-on-1 fight against another dragon rider. – RichS Aug 30 '17 at 3:23
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    I don't watch game of thrones, but if it's decomposing and animated by magic, it should also be lighter than usual, which could compensate for less wing area. – Phoenix Aug 30 '17 at 14:34
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Magic is not the answer (in this case)

Magic is not the correct answer here, in my opinion. There are many things about the dragons that can be answered by magic:

  • How Viserion was born from a petrified egg
  • How zombie Viserion was resurrected from a corpse
  • How Viserion's dragonfire is different from normal fire
  • How zombie Viserion's icefire works in the first place

Note that I didn't mention "why dragons breathe fire". There seems to be a semi-scientific approach here. When you look into a dragon's mouth, you see two little holes at the back of the jawline. This is the source of the dragon's fire, it basically functions like a blowtorch. So there is at least some explanation as to how they breathe fire, it's not just magic.

However, the dragon's flight has always been shown as realistic flight, basing itself on the principles of physics.

  • The dragons flap their wings, lifting themselves with every flap
  • They do not fly in a straight line when flapping their wings (only when gliding)
  • They glide
  • They have a turning radius and are limited by inertia
  • They cannot hover. Though they are able to fly in place for short periods (e.g. just before landing), they cannot keep this up for long. Which makes sense, as hovering costs considerably more effort than normal flight (which is mostly done through gliding and only requires flappign of the wings to maintain their altitude).
  • Zombie Viserion flies exactly like all of the living dragons have always flown.
  • Since wights do not tire, it's possible that zombie Viserion is able to fly in place indefinitely, simply because he does not tire like living dragons. Regardless, his capability of flying in place is still physically sound (even if his lack of exhaustion is not).

For these reasons, I'm arguing that in regards to dragons' flight, magic is not a valid answer.


So how can Viserion fly with holes in his wings?

First of all, the holes aren't that big. They are little holes compared to the total surface area of his remaining wing.
Somewhat offtopic but relevant as to the core of your question: wights don't seem to rot much after resurrection (as far as we've seen, which is little to go on to be honest), so it's possible that Viserion isn't actively rotting because he hasn't been dead for long enough. I am not arguing that I know for a fact that he isn't rotting; I'm just arguing that you can't know for a fact that he is.

You're right that Viserion should be less efficient at flying with holes in his wings (compared to Viserion without holes), but he shouldn't be incapable of doing so (unless the holes are big enough, which does not seem to be the case from what we have seen so far).

But his movement is through necromancy?

You need to distinguish between the source of the movement and the effect of the movement.

Necromancy animates these wights.

As Melisandre said, the necromancy makes the wights move. But that does not mean that every consequence of this movement is also caused by necromancy.

If a wight swings a sword, hits a soldier and cuts his skin, did necromancy cut that man's skin? No, it did not. The sword did.
That sword would have cut that skin regardless of who swung the sword.

  • A skeletal (or zombie) arm moving around is due to necromancy.
  • A sword moving around because it's being held by a moving skeletal arm is due to physics.
  • That sword hitting someone and cutting them is due to physics.

Now applying the same to Viserion:

  • A zombie dragon wing moving around is due to necromancy.
  • The dragon being lifted off the ground because it flaps its wings is due to physics.
  • The dragon flying through the air because of its altitude and glide capabilities is due to physics.

But how does he fly then?

Coming back to my earlier point, you're right that zombie Viserion should be less efficient at flying (compared to Viserion), but he shouldn't be incapable of doing so.

Physical flight works under the following (drastically simplified) principle:

Lift force = drag of the wing * force of flapping the wing.

To achieve the same lift (flight capabilities), if zombie Viserion has a lower wing drag (due to the holes), he can make up for it by putting more force behind his wing.
This would mean that in practice, zombie Viserion would flap his wing faster than he used to. This detail may have been omitted from the show because the animators did not consider it to such a detailed degree.

Let's look at the wights again, specifically the skeletal ones. While they are relatively easily smashed to pieces, they are still capable of swinging a sword without ripping themselves apart. If their strength only came from their physical structure, then they would probably fall apart at the first swing.
So it stands to reason that necromancy (the force that moves their bones) adds a bit of extra force to their movement. It then also stands to reason that Viserion can be stronger than he was before, which can explain the added force needed to flap his wing.

Viserion can fly with holes in his wings since planes can do the same thing

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( from https://www.pinterest.com/0xnnrzjvogkc7xf/russian-world-war-ii-aircraft/ )

enter image description here

( from https://www.pinterest.com/spzkaz/military-aircraft/ )

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    For all they fly 'normally' I'm pretty sure that a similar creature couldn't fly. Square-Cube-law as flying animals get larger, the amount of wingspan they need increases, and so does the amount of thrust to overcome drag. And that in turn increases the strength needed, and thus the weight needed... so there comes a tipping point where above about 10kg birds cannot fly great bustard – Sobrique Aug 29 '17 at 14:16
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    @BinaryWorrier: I can't disprove your theory, but then we're getting into the nitty gritty of wights' physiology. This is dependent on the strength of dragon leather (wings) in general, whether wightness adds anything to the strength, how cold zombie Viserion's skin is, ... Which makes it more of an opinion piece than an actual answer (but I do think it's relevant to note that the wings may start failing over time). – Flater Aug 29 '17 at 14:17
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    @Sobrique: Valid points as to physical realism (although the great bustard can reach up to 21kg). However, do consider that the dragons have a rather massive wingspan (cfr Drogon when he landed on the ice lake), and that wings can be smaller if they are stronger and flapped with more force (up to a point of course). If we start from the assumption that a dragon is inherently built in a way that facilitates flight (even if that means a massively strong body (e.g. bone and skin strength) to make it work), then their flight is realistic. – Flater Aug 29 '17 at 14:23
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    @Sobrique: Accepting the existence of magic does not make magic the answer to every question. My question explicitly argues that the dragon births are magic, but that does not make everything about the dragons magic. As it is presented in the show, there is nothing that indicates their method of flying to be caused by magic. Note that even if you argue that "their bones are magically strengthened (required for the wings to work)", is still not the same as "flying through magic". Their flight follows physically sound principles assuming that their bodies can endure the needed forces. – Flater Aug 29 '17 at 14:41
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    As to if such a beast could fly, part of this worldbuilding question addresses that. (Disclaimer, one of the answers, though not the top one, is mine) – DonyorM Aug 30 '17 at 6:28
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It's likewise impossible for zombies to walk with no blood pumping through their veins and no way for them to move huge distances with no source of energy, nor does it make sense that they could run, carry heavy weapons, be strong enough to strangle people, but are somehow incapable of swimming. Nor do the aerodynamics of the living dragons make a whole lot of sense.

Viserion can fly and zombies can fly for the same reason undead dragons and wights exist in the first place: magic. You'd be disappointed seeking a realistic answer based on real physics.

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    "Necromancy animates these wights" - Mellisandre – Skooba Aug 29 '17 at 3:03
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    I disagree. Zombies - even in the GoT universe - need legs to walk. A zombie without legs has to crawl using its hands. So, while that magic can animate a body, it in itself cannot provide a means of locomotion. Thus, a dragon with wings that cannot fly cannot be written off as "magic." Now, to be fair, holes in Viserion's wings may not be big enough to prevent flying, but that isn't the point you're making. – Misha R Aug 29 '17 at 3:31
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    Their inability to swim is somewhat physically sound. Bone is denser than flesh, thus a skeleton sinks faster than a human (who is less dense on average, due to being made up of bone + less dense material). Furthermore, if you've ever tried to swim by turning your hand sideways (not palm first), you'll notice how much difference it makes. Skeletons are simply too heavy and don't have the required surface area for paddling. – Flater Aug 29 '17 at 10:30
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    If White Walkers can make their wights fly, then why aren't they having the rest of them fly, especially the slow ones like giants? – Worse_Username Aug 29 '17 at 16:27
  • This conversation looks like it might go on a while. I've moved the comments to chat; please continue there for as long as you need (@Flater, bendl, MishaRosnach, etc.). – Rand al'Thor Aug 30 '17 at 0:22
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  1. From the show, Viserion's wings weren't even damaged a lot, except for a few small holes here and there. This might be because he wasn't hit so badly on the wings.
  2. It is the Night King's magic. One can also ask the same question of the horses in the Night Kings's army. How are they managing to walk such long distances when their legs and body are so badly damaged?

The only answer would be magic. The Others are magical beings, and now Viserion is too.

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    "The Others are magical beings, and now Viserion is too." The dragons were always magical beings. – Jonathon Aug 29 '17 at 2:15
  • @JonathonWisnoski Yeah, that too. But in the context of the question, it is more about the Night King's magic than the dragon's :) – Dawny33 Aug 29 '17 at 2:19
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Dragons are unreal.

In real world, it would be nearly impossible to create anything heavier than a pig that flies. Many fantasies just say "it's a dragon" and don't even try to explain how do they fly or breathe fire/acid/cookies/smoke/snow/balloons/ice/magic/plasma/whatever. The only possible answer here would be "magic", or "divine power", whichever you prefer.

But the real answer is just "nobody thought they should bother with explaining it".

As for why it is impossible for any dragon to fly, see this thread at worldbuilding.se.

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    To elaborate on "In real world, it would be nearly impossible to create anything heavier than a pig that flies." A modern pig is about 200-350kg (450-800 lbs). A pterosaur (largest flying thing ever known) had an estimated wingspan of 11m (35ft) and a weight of 250kg (550lb). So, yes, flying pigs are about as big as the real world has ever gotten. – Rob Kinyon Aug 29 '17 at 23:07
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Viserion might be more like a White Walker, not a Wight, hence he is not undead and rotting.

Wights are undead corpses animated by magic. Corpses can be converted to wights merely by the Night King raising his arms.

Walkers are converted from living people (e.g. - often Craster's baby sons, but could be from other people too) when the Night King touches them.

The Night King touched the dragon to convert it rather than merely converting it from afar as he did with all the dead bodies at Hardhome.

So perhaps Viserion was not completely dead, but nearly so before he was converted. As the equivalent of a White Walker (Flyer?), he won't rot. He won't be bothered by fires that kill wights. He won't be killed by being chopped up by a sword (if enough swords could pierce his hide), but he might be vulnerable to dragonglass and dragonsteel as White Walkers are.

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