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The Design of Airplane Wings

written by: Raunekk•edited by: Jason C. Chavis•updated: 5/28/2010

An airplane wing is not just a streamlined structure attached to the fuselage of the airplane but a coordinated system formed of several parts. The design of airplane wings help in lifting, controlling, and maneuvering the airplane. What are these parts and how do they help?

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    Introduction

    The design of an airplane wings plays an important role in deciding the purpose for which the airplane will be used in a later stage. The shape and design of the wings also play a vital role in deciding the operation of the plane. The article will describe the importance of the design of airplane wings and what part they play in lifting the airplane in the air.

    airplane wing1 Image Credits : Airplane wing at penaltyofheroes (http://blog.penaltyofheroes.com/wp-content/uploads/airplane_wing1.jpg)

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    First the Basics

    Airplane wings are so designed that it makes the plane airborne by producing the necessary lift. In order to take the plane into the air, the wings should produce a lift force which is more than the total weight of the airplane. Different forces act on the airplanes which eventually assist it to become airborne. However, when it comes to wings, a combination of Bernoulli’s and Newton's principles help in generating the necessary air lift for plane.

    The wings of any airplane have a profile which is curved at the top and flat at the bottom. This is because the air has to move faster over the top than at the bottom of the airplane wing in order to create a difference in pressure that will lead to the creation of an upward force. The airfoil, also known as the cross-section of the airplane wing, provides the necessary lift to the wings. However, they also generate drag, which reduces the speed of the airplane. Thus, the design of the airfoil plays an important role in deciding the type and limitations of an airplane. For e.g. airplanes with thick airfoils are not suited for long duration and high speed flights as they generate more drag, whereas thin airfoils are suited for both high speed and long duration flight.

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    Understanding Airplane Wings

    Different airplanes have wings of different shapes and sizes. Airplanes might have straight, swept, or delta shaped wings according to their requirements. However, all types of wings have the same basic parts. Wings are attached to the fuselage of the airplane. The edge where the wing is attached to the airplane is known as the root whereas the edge at the other end of the wing is known as the wing tip. The forward line that connects the wing tip and the root is known as the leading edge and the line that connects the tip to the root at the back of the wing is known as the trailing edge. These edges are used to define boundaries of the wings and are also used as references.

    The airfoil, as mentioned earlier, is the cross-sectional area of the wings, perpendicular to the leading edge. Airfoils are curved in shape and the amount of curvature varies with the type of wings. The curved surface on the top makes the air pass faster and thus generate less pressure than that at the bottom of the wing, thus producing the lift.

    Another important part of airplane wings are the ailerons, which are small flaps attached at the trailing edge of the wings. Ailerons are controlled by the pilot and are moved up or down along the hinges to control the amount of lift generated by the wings and to roll the wings from side to side. In order to assist in this process, most of the airplanes also use spoilers, which are small plates hinged over the top of the wings, used for generating a rolling motion for the airplane.

    Apart from this, the wings also have flaps along the trailing edges and towards the root of the wings. The flaps are used to obtain maximum lift during lower speeds, especially during landing or takeoff. They extend and thus change the airfoil shape of the wings, reducing the pressure at the top and increasing the lift. Just like flaps, slats are also attached at the leading edges of the wings and are used for obtaining additional lift.

    wingspart Image Credits : wings parts at centennial off light website (http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Theories_of_Flight/airplane/TH2G9.jpg)

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